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May 9, 2013

Council may hire private law firm

METHUEN — The City Council is looking to hire a private law firm after City Solicitor Peter McQuillan leaves his post later this month.

The firm would provide legal services to the city until the council names McQuillan’s permanent successor. The search for a new solicitor stalled April 1 following a series of controversies and has yet to pick up again.

On Monday, Council Chairman Sean Fountain told councilors he is in talks with the Boston-based firm Kopelman and Paige. Area clients of the municipal law firm include the cities of Newburyport and Amesbury and towns of Georgetown and Groveland.

Fountain also told the council that McQuillan would step down “within the next few weeks.” No specific date has been made public.

“Once his position is vacated, that private law firm will likely be the one to come in,” said Fountain. “If they’re willing to work with us I think that’s the way to go.”

Hiring a private firm will require City Council approval. Yesterday, Fountain referred to Kopelman and Paige as “one of the premier law firms that handle municipalities,” but said other firms will be considered before a decision is made.

“We’re definitely going to explore which companies are out there and which will be the best fit for the city on an interim basis,” he said.

Fountain said he will meet with McQuillan today to discuss his departure date.

“We’re working the details out,” said Fountain. “We’re going to go over some time frames.”

Multiple calls to McQuillan seeking comment for this story were not returned this week.

As for the search for a new solicitor, Fountain on Monday said he is working with the city’s human resources director to prepare a new job description. Fountain also said that candidate interviews will be conducted by the full council rather than a council subcommittee.

“I think that will be the best way,” said Fountain. “Everybody can ask their questions and everybody can make their own choice.”

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