The city of Portland is looking for a new director of public services, a department with the second-highest budget in the city at $16 million.

After more than 12 years on the job, Mike Bobinsky has been granted paid leave for two months and then will resign to pursue other opportunities, according to the city. Despite the paid leave and the city’s plan to appoint an interim director, the separation “is both mutual and amicable,” said City Hall Communications Director Jessica Grondin in a written statement.

“The city manager has granted Mike a personal leave for two months,” Grondin said. “He has been exploring other employment opportunities, and will be resigning at the end of his leave period. Mike has been a dedicated department director for the city for 12½ years.”

Grondin said Bobinsky began his leave on Sept. 15 – five days after the City Council approved a “blue bag amnesty” program, allowing residents to use up the cheaper blue trash bags before having to switch to pricier purple ones. Bobinsky said the city had roughly 214,000 leftover blue bags, which cost the city an estimated $17,500.

Grondin said in an interview the blue bag issue did not prompt Bobinsky’s leaving and that he was not disciplined in his role as director. She did not comment further, saying, “It’s a personnel matter.”

He was granted two months of paid leave – costing approximately $18,000 – and plans to use an additional three weeks of vacation time, she said.


Grondin said the leave is intended to provide the city “access to his knowledge during this transition period.”

Bobinsky said in a written statement that he was proud of his work in Portland, including waste reduction, increased recycling, clean-water upgrades and winter snow removal, but the time had come for him to pursue other opportunities.

“I had expressed this to the city manager and I’m glad we came to an amicable decision,” Bobinsky said. “During my leave I will be available to help fill in gaps on various projects to ensure a seamless transition.” He did not respond directly when asked why he is on paid leave, saying only that it is within the city manager’s authority.

Bobinsky joins several other top level managers who have departed city government in recent years, including Eric Labelle, the former assistant director of Public Services, who abruptly resigned June 1. In recent years, the city has lost two city managers, several city attorneys, a deputy city manager, police chief, fire chief, finance director, human resources director, health and human services director, general assistance administrator and two homeless-shelter directors.

The city has hired two individuals with previous experience in Portland’s Public Services operations to help run the department on a temporary basis.

Bob Leeman, who is currently the marketing manager for Cruise Portland, Maine, will serve as interim director, while Steve Earley will serve as assistant director of operations. Leeman worked for the city for 15 years and was the director of public buildings, Grondin said, and Earley worked for the city for 36 years, including as director of operations.


Grondin said the city will advertise to find a permanent replacement for Bobinsky, who earned $111,000 a year. She said Leeman will earn $2,145 a week – the equivalent of a $111,000 annual salary – and Earley will earn $1,734 a week – the equivalent of a $90,000 annual salary – until a new director fills the position.

Public Services is responsible for maintaining the city’s roadways and public spaces, including winter snow removal. The director oversees a staff of 192 employees who are represented by four unions.

The department is in the process of moving most of its operations out of the Bayside neighborhood to an industrial area on Canco Road. The move, which will occur in phases, is expected to cost $16 million. The council has already approved $3.4 million in new borrowing to facilitate the move to the 5-acre site at 250 Canco Road and voters will likely be asked to approve an $8 million bond.

Starting Jan. 1, the department will begin overseeing a new program that charges commercial and private property owners for the amount of hard surfaces they own, as a way to raise revenue to combat pollution from stormwater runoff.

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