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March 29, 2013

Council approves spending $100,001 to pay settlement

Another case between Methuen, Chief Solomon still pending

METHUEN — The City Council last night unanimously voted to take $100,001 from the city’s free cash account to pay a federal court judgment in favor of Police Chief Joseph Solomon.

The vote came after a brief discussion between members of the council, Mayor Stephen Zanni, City Solicitor Peter McQuillan and City Auditor Thomas Kelly.

“I’m pleased with the outcome,” Zanni said after the meeting. “I’m hoping we can move forward and the city can move forward.”

Council President Sean Fountain agreed.

“We want to put this behind us,” he said. “It’s best for taxpayers and the city to move forward.”

Councilor Jennifer Kannan added, “I think it’s fair.”

Last night’s vote resolves one part of a puzzle of lawsuits between Solomon and the city stemming from the chief’s firing in 2008. The chief filed a federal suit in May 2011, accusing former Mayor William Manzi and the city of “unconstitutional and retaliatory actions” for “illegally” firing him.

The most recent step toward an agreement came on March 7 when the city submitted an “offer of judgment” to Solomon in which the city “allows judgment to be taken against them” in the amount of $100,001 plus legal costs. Solomon agreed to the proposal Monday.

During a brief discussion on how to pay for the judgment, Kelly noted that the council had three choices: Take the money from $800,000 in free cash, an account of surplus funds left over at the end of each fiscal year for one-time expenses; use money from the $1.1 million stabilization fund; or, take it from the tax rate.

Councilors were not willing to take the money directly from taxes, and Kelly advised that the stabilization fund remain untouched so it could be used to help pay the debt on the high school project as well as any cost overruns the project might experience.

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