EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 23, 2012

After four months, new settlement offer expected in Solomon case

By Brian Messenger bmessenger@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — METHUEN — After a four-month stalemate in negotiations, Mayor Stephen Zanni said he will extend a new settlement offer this week to police Chief Joseph Solomon.

“The door is still open,” Zanni said yesterday. “I definitely want to see if we can bring this to conclusion.”

Talks between Zanni and Solomon to settle the chief’s federal suit against the city and former Methuen Mayor William Manzi began in April. But there’s been no progress since June, when negotiations broke down.

Zanni said he hopes to meet with Solomon this week and make a new offer. If the sides fail to come to terms, Solomon’s suit is slated to proceed Feb. 27 with a scheduling conference.

“If we can’t do it this way, we’ll proceed with the court,” Zanni said. “I’m trying to reach some settlement here. I think it’s important that I’m keeping the lines of communication open. I’m looking at the best interests of the city.”

Solomon said yesterday he is open to continued settlement negotiations.

“If the mayor’s looking to sit down, I’m definitely available for that,” said Solomon.

Officials have repeatedly refused to disclose a potential settlement amount.

Manzi fired Solomon in May 2008, claiming the chief verbally abused officers, misspent federal grant money and broke state law by using taxpayer money to buy marine equipment from his sister and brother-in-law.

Solomon appealed his firing with the Civil Service Commission, which reduced the punishment to a one-year suspension and ordered Solomon reinstated as police chief in 2010. The city appealed the decision, but its bid was rejected in July by Lawrence Superior Court Judge Robert Cornetta.

Solomon sued the city in federal court tin May 2011, accusing Manzi of “unconstitutional and retaliatory actions” for “illegally” firing him in 2008.

The lawsuit said Manzi fired Solomon for “exercising protected activity under the First Amendment,” such as appealing a suspension, suing the city and participating in a federal investigation of Manzi.