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April 3, 2013

Charges three city councilors held secret meeting

(Continued)

According to the Attorney General’s office, a meeting covered by the state Open Meeting Law is “a deliberation by a public body with respect to any matter within the body’s jurisdiction.” A city council and its subcommittees fit the definition of a public body. The AG’s office and state law define deliberation as “an oral or written communication through any medium, including electronic mail, between or among a quorum of a public body on any public business within its jurisdiction.”

Among the nine-member Methuen City Council, a quorum to conduct business is five members.

Gagliardi said the Starbucks meeting violated the “spirit and intent” of the Open Meeting Law. “The spirit and intent of it is to have all public discourse relative to the council discussing public business be discussed in a public forum,” he said.

He also called on city councilors to release McQuillan’s email, municipal cell phone and office phone records to determine who McQuillan contacted during the process, adding that councilors may withhold that information by claiming attorney-client privilege.

During a potential successor’s interview before the city council, McQuillan, watching from home, texted the candidate, former Lawrence assistant city solicitor Richard D’Agostino, about a comment D’Agostino had made to the council.

Councilors voted 5-4 Monday night against appointing D’Agostino, 58, to a two-year term as city solicitor. Kannan, Atkinson and Ferry all voted no, along with Councilors Marsan and Jeanne Pappalardo.

Gagliardi, who supported D’Agostino’s candidacy and lobbied councilors on his behalf, said D’Agostino would have ended what he characterized as a period of divisiveness.

“I think D’Agostino would have been the candidate to reunite the community, instead of the divisiveness and accusations from one counselor to another you’re seeing,” Gagliardi said.

Follow Douglas Moser on Twitter @EagleEyeMoser. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.

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