By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — The field of applicants for Methuen’s top legal post is down to four finalists and includes former assistant city solicitors in Lawrence and Haverhill and lawyers for the cities of Boston and Salem, Mass.
The city solicitor search committee released the names of finalists last week. They are: Richard D’Agostino, William Faraci, Robin Stein and Kerry Anderson.
City Council Chairman Sean Fountain, also chairman of the six-member search committee, said the city will perform reference and background checks on the finalists before scheduling public interviews with the full City Council.
“We have some really talented applicants,” said Fountain. “These applicants ... will give the council the opportunity to pick the right candidate to move the city forward.”
The search for a new city solicitor was triggered Jan. 7 when the City Council voted 5-4 against reappointing City Solicitor Peter McQuillan to a two-year term. Twelve people applied for the job, which will pay between $87,390 and $113,144 per year.
Of the four candidates, Faraci has been practicing law the longest, having been admitted to the bar in 1972. D’Agostino was admitted in 1996, Stein in 2002 and Anderson in 2005.
Faraci has a law office in Haverhill and formerly worked as assistant city solicitor for the city of Haverhill. Stein currently works as assistant city solicitor for the city of Salem, Mass. Anderson works in labor relations for the city of Boston.
D’Agostino was hired as assistant city solicitor for the city of Lawrence in 2005 but was fired from the post in April 2012 after returning from 16 months of medical leave. He has since sued the city in an effort to get his job back and collect $300,000 in damages.
The six-member city solicitor search committee consists of councilors Fountain, Jennifer Kannan, Lisa Ferry and Tom Ciulla, and local lawyers Arthur Broadhurst and Bryan Chase.
Fountain initially told The Eagle-Tribune on Feb. 11 that four finalists had already been chosen. The finalists were picked Feb. 6 during a secret meeting at Broadhurst’s Methuen law office. Absent from the meeting was Ciulla.
A public notice for the Feb. 6 meeting was never posted. The Open Meeting Law in Massachusetts requires that meetings of public bodies — including City Council subcommittees — be publicized 48 hours in advance.
Fountain also planned to hold finalist interviews in executive session and release only two names to the public. But he reversed course Feb. 13, one day after The Eagle-Tribune reported such closed-door interviews constituted another Open Meeting Law violation.
After seeking clarification from Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office, Fountain said he was told that once finalists are selected, the search committee can no longer legally interview job applicants in closed-door executive session.
The search committee met behind closed doors again last Tuesday night for several hours before releasing the names of finalists.
“It was a very thorough process,” said Ciulla. “There’s some great candidates for the City Council to interview.”