Brunswick Town Manager Gary Brown, already scheduled to resign at the end of March, will leave office more than a month early after a divided town council voted Monday to hasten his exit.

The 5-4 vote activated a provision of a Dec. 23 legal agreement that called for Brown to step down on March 31 and outlined the terms of his departure. The contract provision allows the town or Brown to end his employment sooner with two weeks’ notice.

The council opted to pay Brown for the two weeks in lieu of his working. His employment with the town ends Feb. 24. The council appointed Finance Director John Eldridge to serve as interim town manager.

Brunswick Town Council Chairman Benet Pols, who made the motion Monday to speed up Brown’s departure, said lines of authority in the town had been unclear during the lame-duck period before Brown was slated to leave office.

Pols said he faced pressure to invoke the two-weeks’ notice provision because of those difficulties, and said there was an identical early-escape clause that would have allowed Brown to leave earlier if he chose to do so.

“Sure, we anticipated this, but you cross your fingers and hope,” Pols said. “I just concluded that it wasn’t really going that well and it was best for coherent management of staff and the council going forward that we have one hand on the tiller.”

Brown’s resignation in December was a negotiated agreement between the town and him that was a result of a series of meetings in executive session by the council in late 2013, Pols said. The agreement, provided to the Press Herald by the town, also includes a nondisparagement clause that prohibits Brown and town representatives from speaking ill of each other. In exchange, Brown would receive his salary through March and keep his town-issued iPad.

Instead, Brown, 57, removed his personal belongings from his office Tuesday morning, and will be paid for only two more weeks.

Four councilors voted against the early departure: W. David Watson, Suzan Wilson, Gerald E. Favreau and John Richardson Jr.

Richardson, Favreau and Watson defended Brown’s record, and said the early termination was retribution for past conflicts, a charge that Pols dismissed.

Councilors Stephen Walker, Jane F. Millet and Sarah Brayman did not respond to messages for comment.

Councilor John Perreault said that when he saw Brown had scheduled blocks of vacation days before his departure, he saw an opportunity to save the town money.

“We had things we needed to move forward on,” Perreault said. “He didn’t have a lot to do, as far as the functionality of the town.”

Brown said Pols called him Thursday to give him notice that the council may take up the early termination.

“This is a manifestation of what triggered the whole separation agreement to begin with,” Brown said. “It was mutually understood between myself and the incoming council that it probably wasn’t going to work for me to remain there without there being some friction.”

Pols said his call to Brown was out of fairness to give the town manager an inkling of what was coming, and that if Brown so chose, a chance to leave early voluntarily.

“I didn’t want to blindside the guy,” Pols said. “We had five votes to do this, and there’s five strands of thinking that coalesced around one idea.”

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at: mbyrne@pressherald.com