MOUNT HOLLY Township officials Wednesday afternoon sent a letter to Richard Dow asking a simple question: Are you still the mayor of Mount Holly?
Dow, who was elected to the township council in 2010, assumed the mayor's post in January. At a council meeting Monday night, he abruptly announced that he was stepping down for health reasons. He then left the building, before even the closed session of the meeting could begin.
He has not given any explanation of his medical issues.
At Monday night's meeting, Dow said he was taking a leave of absence, said Township Manager Eric Berry and Township Solicitor George Saponaro. Dow also said he would request benefits under the Family Medical Leave Act.
But Saponaro said he doesn't believe Dow is eligible.
"To meet the FMLA, he would have to meet three standards. I don't think he would qualify. We would need to know what the illness was," Saponaro said. "More significantly, he doesn't really meet the definition of an employee."
Dow does not work the minimum number of hours - he has a full-time job with Verizon - and is an elected official, which likely disqualifies him from employee status, Saponaro said.
"The township has requested clarification from Mayor Dow if he has resigned or is taking a leave of absence," Berry wrote in a news release. "At this point in time, Mayor Dow is not eligible as an elected official of the Township of Mount Holly. We are awaiting his response and will react accordingly."
Berry sent a copy of that statement, along with a letter providing information on eligibility for benefits under state and federal law, to Dow's house Wednesday afternoon. The letter, sent both by registered mail and hand-delivered by a police officer to Dow's wife, also requested an immediate response from Dow in answer to whether his intention was to take a leave or resign.
"I gave him the information that he doesn't qualify for FMLA, and I do need to know what his intentions are," Berry said.
Dow had not responded to the letter late Wednesday afternoon. He also did not return calls for comment.
For now, Dow remains mayor, Berry and Saponaro said. Only one more council meeting, set for Dec. 9, is scheduled before the end of the year, when Dow's term as mayor expires.
Dow's elected term as a council member lasts through Dec. 31, 2014. Mayors in Mount Holly are elected by the council from among its members for one-year terms.
Thus, Dow could resign as both mayor and councilman, take a leave of absence, remain in both positions, or, Saponaro said, resign as mayor while still staying on the council.
"The reason that it seemed like we are being vague is only because we don't know," Berry said, later adding: "Everything you're trying to find out, we're trying to find out at the same time."