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January 30, 2013

'Final' settlement offer to Solomon this week

Mayor may have to hire outside lawyers if federal case continues

METHUEN — Mayor Stephen Zanni said he may have to hire outside legal help if police Chief Joseph Solomon’s lawsuit against the city proceeds in federal court late next month.

If the sides can’t come to terms and agree to throw out the chief’s suit in the coming weeks, the case will then likely be settled through the courts beginning Feb. 27 with a scheduling conference in Boston.

Zanni said yesterday he plans to present Solomon with a final settlement offer by Friday.

“It’s a final proposal,” said Zanni. “I’m looking to, hopefully, resolve this.”

If a settlement can’t be reached, Zanni said he will consider hiring a private law firm to work the case. But that will depend on when the City Council names City Solicitor Peter McQuillan’s replacement, the mayor said.

“I might be looking for an outside lawyer ... if it goes to that point,” said Zanni. “I want to make sure we have our ducks in a row.

“I just think this is important to have it all sorted out ahead of time and not wait to the last minute.”

The search for a new city lawyer was triggered Jan. 7 when the City Council voted 5-4 against reappointing McQuillan to a two-year term. No deadline has been set for naming his replacement, but a search committee made up of city councilors and local lawyers will begin reviewing the 12 applicants for the job this week. Applicants had until Friday to send their resumes to City Hall.

City Council Chairman Sean Fountain said Monday it is also possible that councilors will name an interim solicitor before making a permanent hire. A special meeting could be held this week to discuss the matter, he said.

McQuillan is expected to stay on board as solicitor until a successor or interim is named. Zanni acknowledged yesterday that the uncertainty surrounding the solicitor’s job and how long McQuillan will be employed by the city has made planning for the federal case more difficult.

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