The Madison Police Department merit board voted unanimously Wednesday to place Patrolman Josh Abbott on administrative leave without pay until he has a hearing on departmental charges next month.

After city attorney Joe Jenner outlined the board's options, members voted to place Abbott on unpaid leave. That action was taken without any discussion.

The suspension will be in effect until March 6, which is when the merit board voted to hold Abbott's review hearing. The purpose of the hearing is only to determine whether or not Chief Dan Thurston can bring disciplinary charges against Abbott as a result of his Feb. 3 arrest on allegations of domestic violence.

In a letter to the merit board, Thurston said the charges he hopes to file against Abbott are conduct unbecoming an officer, violation of department rules and violation of probationary status. As a result of those charges, Thurston has recommended the merit board fire Abbott.

At the hearing, both sides will present evidence as to whether or not the chief should be allowed to file official disciplinary charges against Abbott. The merit board can then make a determination whether or not the charges are appropriate. After that decision is made, merit board members then can determine what, if any, further punishment they will take.

Eugene Stewart, a former Circuit Court judge in Franklin County, has been selected to moderate the hearing.

The hearing is at 5 p.m. in City Hall.