Rachel Talbot Ross, the longtime director of Portland’s Equal Opportunity and Multicultural Affairs department, is on a paid leave of absence for an indefinite period of time.

Talbot Ross, who has held the position for 21 years, began the leave on Aug. 27. She is receiving full pay and benefits during the leave, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said Thursday.

Grondin said she could not comment further on the circumstances of the leave, including whether it was an administrative, personal or medical leave.

“That’s all I can say at this point,” she said, when asked about details of the leave and when it might end. “Beyond that, I cannot comment on a personnel matter.”

Talbot Ross did not return calls and an email seeking comment. When a reporter went to her home seeking comment, Talbot Ross confirmed that she is on leave but said she did not have time to discuss it.

The director, who reports to the city manager and does not oversee any staff, serves as a link between city government and immigrants and helps them deal with government bureaucracy.

Talbot Ross is also president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP. Her family has long ties to public service and the civil rights movement in Maine. Her father, former Rep. Gerald Talbot of Portland, was Maine’s first black legislator. Her sister, Regina Phillips, is director of the city’s Refugee Services Program.

The director position was scrutinized in 2010, when budget pressures led to an unsuccessful proposal to turn the $59,700-a-year full-time position into a part-time position.

The position now pays $72,033 a year, Grondin said.

There are certain aspects of the director’s job that the city is required to do under federal law, such as having an equal opportunity representative. Grondin said no single person is filling in for Talbot Ross during the leave, but parts of the job are being handled by others. Human Relations Director Gina Tapp is handling equal opportunity issues and City Manager Jon Jennings is attending the Disability Commission meetings that Talbot Ross led.

Talbot Ross is one of two top city officials on paid leave, although the two situations are not believed to be related.

Mike Bobinksy, director of public services, was placed on a two-month paid leave starting Sept. 15, at the end of which his resignation becomes effective. Grondin also said she could not provide details about what led to Bobinsky’s leave because it was a personnel matter, although she said in that case that his departure from the city post was “mutual and amicable.”

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine