MOUNT HOLLY - Mount Holly Mayor Richard Dow said in an e-mail to the township administrator last week that he is taking a leave of absence for health reasons. His one-year term as mayor, which is determined by a vote of the non-partisan township council, ends this year. He has one year left on a four-year council term.

Dow has declined to comment. In a Dec. 12 e-mail to Township Administrator Eric Berry, Dow said he was requesting that the council excuse him from meetings "until such time that my health-care providers can determine a time frame for treatment." The e-mail was also forwarded to reporters.

Under state law, Dow could be removed if he missed three consecutive council meetings in unexcused absences. He has missed the Dec. 9 meeting.

Last month, Dow left a meeting early, saying only that he was taking a leave of absence due to health problems. He said his employer, Verizon, has granted him temporary disability and is paying his health benefits.

After Dow left the meeting, the council passed a resolution censuring him. The minutes of the Nov. 25 meeting say the vote to censure Dow was unanimous, 4-0, and was based on complaints filed against Dow by two township employees. The town's labor lawyer, Kathleen Bonczyk, conducted an investigation and recommended the censure, the minutes say. She also suggested Dow be required "to participate in diversity and sensitivity training."

When Dow was elected three years ago to the council, he spearheaded an effort to settle the decade-old Mount Holly Gardens housing bias case. He had campaigned on the promise that he would work to end the litigation, as the case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last month the case was settled when an agreement was reached to provide replacement homes to about 20 mostly minority residents who live in the Gardens as a redevelopment project is launched.

In recent months, Dow has come under increasing fire from other members on the council. While they joined his push to settle the case, they moved forward with other plans he opposed, such as hiring a full-time town manager and passing an ordinance to ban smoking in all outdoor public places.

When Dow announced he was taking a medical leave, Berry and Township Solicitor George Saponaro questioned whether this meant he was resigning. Berry also sent a police officer to deliver a message to Dow's house asking for a response.

Berry and Saponaro could not be reached for comment. The town council is not scheduled to meet again until next month, when it reorganizes and votes on appointing a mayor. The council may also be asked to vote then on whether to excuse Dow's absence. - Jan Hefler