FAIRFIELD — The second-ranking officer in the Fairfield Police Department was authorized to serve as acting chief Wednesday night, one week after police Chief John Emery went on an unexpected leave of absence.

The council also entered into an 11-minute executive session to discuss what Town Manager Josh Reny called Emery’s “employment, assignment and duties.”

Under Maine law, public bodies may enter into private executive sessions to discuss an employee if the discussion is likely to violate the person’s right to privacy or damage the employee’s reputation. No votes may be taken during executive session.

The council, which included three newly seated members, voted unanimously to enter into the session to discuss the police chief.

On Dec. 24, more than a dozen law enforcement officials responded to a call on Palmer Road in Skowhegan, where Emery owns a residence.

Skowhegan police Chief Michael Emmons would not say whether the call, categorized under the police radio term “mental subject,” was related to Emery.

On Dec. 26, Reny placed Emery on administrative leave. That same day, Emery also requested and was granted paid medical leave, according to Reny.

On Monday, Reny said the town is seeking additional information related to Emery’s situation. Reny said the town has hired an attorney to review the case and make a recommendation.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the council voted unanimously to allow Detective Sgt. Kingston Paul, the next-highest-ranking member of the Fairfield Police Department, to act as chief in Emery’s absence.

Paul has been taking charge of the department; but because Emery’s title has not changed, no interim chief has been named.

Reny said that he asked the council to grant Paul the authority to act as chief because Paul didn’t have clear authority to sign documents on behalf of the department. The chief typically signs a variety of annual and quarterly documents at the end of the year, Reny said.

Historically, a deputy chief has acted as chief in the chief’s absence, but the deputy chief position was eliminated recently, according to Reny. The last deputy chief, Steven Trahan, resigned in May 2011, after which the position was left vacant.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287

mhhetling@centralmaine.com