DIXFIELD – Selectmen on Monday unanimously authorized police Chief Richard Pickett to hire a third patrolman, a move that in essence terminated the position of Sgt. Mark Dow.

Town Manager Tom Richmond said the action was taken because Dow reached the limit of the town’s personnel policy governing the amount of sick leave that can be taken.

Dow disputes the town’s interpretation of the policy.

He said Tuesday afternoon that the policy allows nine months of disability leave, with an extension of 30 days.

Dow, who became the Police Department’s sergeant about 18 months ago, has been out on sick leave since June 2007. He has served with the department for seven years, and has been in law enforcement since 1989. He said he’s on short-term disability that is due to expire in May.

He has also consulted an attorney to learn what steps he can take.

The town’s personnel policy states that a municipal employee may take an unpaid leave of absence of up to nine months, providing that certain contingencies are met.

Dow said he repeatedly asked for a copy of his job description from the town to learn whether a restriction his doctor had put on him would prohibit him from working.

“The town has maintained that I have not been able to do my job,” he said, adding that he believes his condition would not keep him from doing his job.

Dow explained that he has an undiagnosed muscle disorder that results in abnormally high tissue breakdown. He said he is scheduled to have more tests performed in March at the Lahey Clinic in Boston.

Richmond said he does not want to comment further on the matter because of the possible legal ramifications.

Dow received his license as a part-time police officer in 1992. He earned a full-time officer’s license in 1996, a certification he maintains.

Richmond said Pickett has a reserve officer in mind to hire for the open full-time position. Pickett could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

A second closed session was held by selectmen Monday to discuss the public works Teamsters Union 3040 contract, which expires at the end of June.

Richmond said he and Selectmen Bettina Martin and Brad Dyer are scheduled to meet with union representative Carl Guignard on Thursday morning to present a proposal. The board will meet again Jan. 22 in closed session to discuss the results of Thursday’s meeting.

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