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February 20, 2014

Methuen legal bills top $10K again

Council plans to consider second search for solicitor

METHUEN — The monthly legal bill from the private company representing the city surpassed $10,000 for the second straight month in December as the City Council tonight plans to consider whether to open a second search for an in-house solicitor.

Kopelman and Paige, a Boston law firm that represents more than 100 cities and towns in Massachusetts, billed Methuen $11,650.32 in December, for a total of nearly $55,000 since the firm took over representation last summer.

The council plans to vote tonight on whether to launch a new search. Its meeting tonight was rescheduled from Tuesday due to the snow.

“A lot of the things you want in a city this big, with department heads and the mayor and the City Council, we need to access the legal team whenever it’s necessary,” said council Chairman Jamie Atkinson. “Regardless of the bill we need to reopen the solicitor search because it’s in the best interest of the city to have an in-house solicitor.”

That brings the total spent since July to $54,962.39. November’s bill totaled $12,769.63. The rest were below $10,000.

Council Vice Chairman Thomas Ciulla said he supported searching for a new solicitor, but thought Kopelman and Paige should see through any cases it takes on for the city.

“We can start a search, but Kopelman and Paige is going to work on the lawsuit,” he said. “Hopefully they can assist us while we hire a city solicitor and get him up to speed.”

Ciulla referred to a potential lawsuit by former Health Director Brian LaGrasse.

Several councilors have said they would support searching for a new solicitor, including George Kazanjian, who made it part of his campaign last fall.

Councilor Sean Fountain said he would oppose searching for a solicitor and disputed the contention that having a solicitor would save the city money.

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