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Norwood selectmen place fire chief on unpaid leave

Posted by Natalie Feulner  September 28, 2012 03:26 PM

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The Norwood Board of Selectmen announced this week that it has asked Norwood Fire Chief Michael Howard, who has been on paid leave for several months, not return to active duty.

The decision, selectmen say, was partly due to the fact that Howard had depleted all sick leave, vacation leave, Family and Medical Leave Act leave, and had not proven that his illness was caused by the workplace.

A statement from the board this week stated that Howard has been struggling with health issues, not physical in nature, for several months. Since that time, Deputy Chief Ronald Maggio has served as the interim chief and will continue to do so until a new chief is selected.

Selectmen said they tried to negotiate an agreement with the chief about how best to dismiss him from active duty, and proposed paying him fully through May 14, 2014, at which point he would enter into the Massachusetts Public Employee Retirement system.

However, as of Tuesday, Howard had not agreed to that proposal and the board has refused any of his ideas, selectmen said.

“He has made counter offers which the board considered to be wholly unacceptable,” the statement said.

Selectman Michael Lyons told the board on Tuesday that Howard had submitted a letter from doctors saying that he would return to work on Wednesday.

In addition, another letter which Howard reportedly sent to the local newspaper, also made “serious allegations concerning members of the Board of Selectmen, the town manager, the human resources director, and (other) member of the Police department,” Lyons said.

Lyons said he had also sent Howard a letter stating that he was required to undergo a fitness exam with the town’s occupational provider and until then he was not to return to work. However, Howard did not keep that appointment and instead called Lyons on his cell phone saying that he would arrive at work Wednesday anyway.

Lyons said he “emphatically” told Howard not do so and that it was a direct order of the board that he be place on unpaid leave from that day forward.

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