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June 6, 2014

New city solicitor to be paid $101K

METHUEN — By a 5 to 4 vote Wednesday night, the City Council approved a $101,394 salary for the new city solicitor it appointed last month.

Kerry Regan, currently an assistant city solicitor for Lowell, is tentatively scheduled to  start June 17 and is expected to sign an agreement with the city soon. Councilors on May 19 voted 5 to 3 to hire her.

Wednesday, two councilors who voted no said they disagreed with the level of pay, given that Regan, a Georgetown and Harvard educated attorney with several years of corporate legal experience, only had a little more than one year of municipal legal experience.

Councilor Ron Marsan, who led the search committee of three councilors and participated in salary negotiations, said Regan initially turned down an offer of about $97,000, arguing that her pay should be higher for managing the city’s legal department and for appearing in court.

Methuen advertised a salary range of between $89,575 and $115,972 for the position.

“I think the middle is a good place to start, but I think somebody with one year experience, I’m not necessarily in agreement with that especially if you get somebody who only has one year when you’re actually looking for five,” said Councilor Sean Fountain, who has argued the city should stay with Boston firm Kopelman and Paige. “There’s nothing personal in it. I wish the candidate well.”

The meeting Wednesday was held after Councilor Lisa Ferry on Monday objected to the vote. She started to raise her concern about participation in salary negotiations when council Chairman Jamie Atkinson cut her off, arguing her issue was not covered on the agenda.

Ferry Wednesday night read a brief statement before the vote. “I must also state I am disappointed in the process by which the council came to receive the salary and contract recommendation for this position,” she said. “The process surrounding this position did not have to advance this way. It could have and should have been more transparent, inclusive and expeditious. This experience does not illustrate this council at its best but I would like to move forward in a more positive way.”

Councilor James Jajuga disputed suggestions by other councilors Ferry’s objection was meant to derail Regan’s appointment, saying rather it was a protest against a rigid adherence to parliamentary rules he and Ferry felt were stifling debate.

“I don’t think our voices should be silenced,” he said. “What we’re doing here is so narrowly focused. I think this is a bigger issue.”

Councilors Ferry, Fountain, Jajuga and Thomas Ciulla voted against the salary.

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