Ella Bowman stands in Memorial Hall in Oakland in August 2022 as she talks about efforts to restore the historic building. Bowman, who was town manager at the time, submitted her resignation this week in order to become the top administrator in Winslow.  Morning Sentinel file

OAKLAND — The town manager of Oakland said in her resignation letter to the Town Council that a primary reason she’s leaving to become the top administrator in Winslow is backlash she faced as a transgender woman.

Ella Bowman, 63, said in the letter she forwarded Monday evening to the Oakland council that after 24 years of service to the town, first as a police officer and then as an administrator, “it has become obvious to me that my time has arrived to move on.”

She was the manager in Oakland for nine years. Just last year the council had renewed her contract for another three years, but in August the council placed her on administrative leave without any public explanation, prompting questions and protest from residents.

“Leadership style is much like a personality, you might be able to adjust it a little, but it’s basically hardwired and is who you are,” she said in her letter. “My leadership style is the same now as it has been over my many years …”

“Unfortunately, what’s changed for me is the way I look,” she went on to say. “Managing as a male is acceptable to all. Managing as an out transgender female is difficult and quite frankly impossible for a few.”

The Oakland council said in a statement Tuesday that Bowman’s gender transition was not a factor in its decision to place her on administrative leave.


“The Town Council expressly denies that any action (it) took with regard to Ms. Bowman at any time during her employment had anything to do with anti-transgender bias, or with Ms. Bowman’s journey,” the statement said. “Any suggestion to the contrary, by her or anyone else, is false. The truth is that the council has been uniformly supportive of Ms. Bowman, as evidenced by our recent decision to extend her employment agreement.”

The council had earlier said Bowman’s suspension stemmed from a complaint filed against her by a municipal employee. She said in her resignation letter that she learned during the course of the town’s investigation into the complaint that there were six town employees who filed complaints against her.

“After sitting with the investigator, I learned that six of the people who have struggled with my transition the most filed complaints against me,” she said. “I also need to mention that every employee that I’ve hired after my transition has not had any notable issues with me, nor did they file complaints.”

The Oakland council said in its statement that it was obligated to investigate the claims made against Bowman.

“As has been reported, Ms. Bowman was placed on paid, non-disciplinary leave because of complaints made against her in her role as town manager,” the statement said. “Under the town’s anti-harassment policies, and under the law, allegations of the kind asserted against Ms. Bowman must be investigated.”

The council said the report that will be filed at the conclusion of the investigation is private and confidential. But it asked that Bowman waive any confidentiality clause so that it can be publicly released to dispel claims made by Bowman against the panel.


“Given the false allegations about the council’s motives made publicly by Ms. Bowman and others, we believe that full disclosure of the investigator’s report by Ms. Bowman is necessary to ensure the confidence of the public in the council’s actions,” the statement said.

Bowman’s resignation came shortly after she was named Winslow’s town manager at a special meeting Monday.

“I can tell you I’ve broken no laws,” Bowman told the Winslow council at the meeting. “I had no idea why I was really being investigated until I had my three-hour interrogation with the investigator. I’m guilty of doing my job.”

In her letter, Bowman asked to receive compensation for over 200 hours of unused vacation time and sick leave in Oakland, and to have her personal belongings at the Town Office returned to her.

Oakland council Chairman Mike Perkins declined to comment Tuesday beyond the statement released by the town.

Outgoing Winslow Town Manager Erica LaCroix said Tuesday that Bowman may start in her new role as soon as next week, saying that “she has indicated to me that she will start on Wednesday the 11th.”

LaCroix is departing to become the town manager in Farmington, and the Winslow council has said it wanted to move quickly in replacing her.

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