Baltimore transportation director resigns amid wide-ranging review of her leadership

Michelle Pourciau, the Baltimore transportation director who was appointed by Mayor Catherine Pugh less than two years ago, resigned Friday, a city councilman said, just days after The Baltimore Sun reported that the city's internal watchdog was conducting a wide-ranging review of her leadership and morale in the 1,200-employee department.

Lester Davis, a spokesman for Acting Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, and German Vigil, a transportation spokesman, said Pourciau no longer works for the city. Vigil said Frank Murphy is serving as acting director.

Councilman Ryan Dorsey said he had been briefed that Pourciau submitted her resignation late Friday afternoon.

The department, with a $207 million budget, is responsible for the planning, designing, building and maintaining thousands of miles of city roads, highways, sidewalks, alleys, street lights, bike lanes and traffic signals.

Baltimore’s Office of the Inspector General has spent months interviewing dozens of current and former employees about the department's workplace operations and morale under Pourciau. Sources told The Sun that they had been interviewed by OIG investigators about her leadership.

Dorsey put the number of people who had been questioned in the dozens. The councilman said he expects the OIG’s final report to conclude that Pourciau “is an explicit barrier to the department being able to attract and retain top talent.”

“Short of Catherine Pugh’s resignation, this is the best thing that could happen for Baltimore right now,” Dorsey said Friday. “She is an embarrassingly incompetent DOT director.”

Pugh, who is on leave from City Hall in the midst of multiple investigations related to sales of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books, appointed Pourciau in June 2017.

In October of that year, the transportation department failed to submit an annual letter to the state asking for funding for capital projects in the city, “due to the transition of staff.” Five senior officials, including both deputy directors, left the department in the four months after Pourciau took over. One of them attributed his resignation to low staff morale under the new director.

Bikemore, the bicycle advocacy organization that has been pushing for a better biking system in the city, said in a statement that Pugh’s and Pourciau’s actions were “at odds with the ethos of progressive transportation both claimed to embody.”

Bikemore called leadership turmoil in the transportation department troubling.

“This lack of leadership has cost the city millions in lost grant dollars, resulted in poorly managed projects, led to the attrition of talented staff, and has [sown] deep distrust in communities,” the organization said. “When communities don’t trust DOT to do its job, it blocks all progress toward building a city connected with high quality transportation choices.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Dan Rodricks and Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

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