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Inspector General: Former Baltimore transportation director’s criticism of staff ‘often exceeded the bounds of professional conduct’

Inspector General: Former Baltimore transportation director’s criticism of staff ‘often exceeded the bounds of professional conduct’
Baltimore’s inspector general found that the former director of the city’s transportation department demeaned her staff and engaged in criticisms of their work that were so harsh they bordered on being “personal attacks.” (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore’s inspector general found that the former director of the city’s transportation department demeaned her staff and engaged in criticisms of their work that were so harsh they bordered on being “personal attacks.”

A summary of the investigation was released Friday and described the department as having a “toxic environment.”

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The report refers only to a manager at the department, but sources previously told The Baltimore Sun that former director Michelle Pourciau was the subject of the investigation.

Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming wrote in the summary that her team interviewed more than 50 witnesses, including employees of the department, employees of other city and state agencies and people in the private sector.

“An overwhelming number of those employees described instances where the manager engaged in demeaning behavior toward DOT employees,” Cumming wrote. “Witnesses reported the manager’s criticism of DOT employees often exceeded the bounds of professional conduct, bordering on personal attacks.”

Pourciau declined to be interviewed for the investigation. She resigned in late April from the post, for which she received an annual salary of $180,030 in 2018, according to the latest available city salary database.

This week, Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young named Steve Sharkey as transportation director — a step Young noted in his formal response to Cumming. Sharkey previously served as the head of the Department of General Services, which manages the city’s office buildings and vehicle fleets.

Transportation department employees told investigators that Pourciau’s bad management led to an increase in staff turnover, something the Cumming wrote was backed up by data her office reviewed. It also led to stress, affecting employees’ attendance and performance. Some employees described harm to their physical and mental health, Cumming wrote.

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

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