South Portland official takes job in LePage administration

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Paul LePage’s gubernatorial win last week left a vacancy in the city’s human resources department.

City Manager Jim Gailey said Human Resources Director John McGough resigned from his city post late last week to become LePage’s chief of staff.

McGough took a personal leave of absence from his city job in August to work on LePage’s campaign.

McGough was there through the campaign’s highs and lows – whether it was ushering an angry LePage away from reporters questioning his property tax exemptions in Maine and Florida, or LePage’s victory speech on Nov. 3.

“John was a huge asset for the city and we will surely miss him,” Gailey said. “We wish him luck in his new endeavor with the State of Maine.”

McGough was the assistant city manager and human resource director for the city of Waterville from 2000-04, while LePage was Waterville’s mayor. For two years prior to that, McGough was the Republican chief of staff for the State House.

While McGough received no pay or benefits during his leave, questions were raised when McGough took his leave of absence from the city. 

Councilor Rosemarie De Angelis said she followed up on calls from constituents about whether the leave was in-line with the city’s personnel policy.

That policy states that personal leave may be granted “when it appears, because of the past record of the employee or because of the purpose for which the leave is requested, that the best interests of the city will be served.” 

Gailey said McGough, who joined the city in 2006, was prepared to resign to work on the campaign, but stayed on at his request until after the election. That way if LePage lost, the city would still have an HR director, he said.

McGough’s leave complied with the policy, Gailey said, because it was in the city’s best interest to have continuity in the city department.

“John came on board in 2006 and was instantly confronted with a mountain of work as a result of a department that previously saw a revolving door for HR directors,” Gailey said. “The office is on solid ground today due to the continued efforts of John.”

De Angelis, however, believes the issue of what “the best interest of the city” means should be clarified.

“I think it would behoove the city to clarify what we mean by the best interest of the city,” the in-coming mayor said.

Labor attorney Elizabeth Boynton has been filling in since McGough’s leave. Gailey said Boynton is under contract to work 20 hours a week for the city and keep regular office hours.

That schedule has been enough cover the city’s needs, Gailey said, because many of the significant union negotiations were wrapped up prior to McGough’s leave.

Gailey said the city is currently seeking applications for a new HR director through Nov. 30.

“South Portland is a very dynamic place to work,” he said. “I believe individuals who explore the job opportunity will see this rather quickly and the city will receive some great candidates for consideration.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net

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