EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 21, 2013

Sullivan wants McCann to pay legal fees for 'frivolous' suit

By Jill Harmacinski
jharmacinski@eagletribune.com

---- — LAWRENCE – Saying the actions were “frivolous,” former Mayor Kevin Sullivan is trying to recoup money spent to defend himself against a third defamation and negligence lawsuit filed by Frank McCann, retired public works director, against him and his brother Michael Sullivan, who was also city mayor.

Kevin Sullivan hopes to recoup at least $18,187.50 in legal costs, if not more, from McCann and have McCann’s attorney Scott Gleason of Haverhill sanctioned by the court for repeatedly filing the “insubstantial” lawsuits which were “not advanced in good faith, unsupported by law or fact, and filed to harass” him, according to a motion filed Feb. 11 in Essex County Superior Court.

The city of Lawrence, which spent more than $220,000 defending itself against McCann’s repeated claims, may take similar action against McCann and Gleason, said Charles Boddy, city attorney.

“We are giving it thoughtful consideration,” Boddy said. An outside firm was retained to handle the cases and Boddy also worked on the defense, he said.

The legal action taken against Gleason follows a public reprimand he received from the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, a lawyer watchdog group, on Dec. 28.

In a case unrelated to McCann’s, Gleason was rapped for missing deadlines in a damage lawsuit filed by unidentified Methuen residents after their property was damaged by a landslide. By missing those deadlines, Gleason’s clients lost their right to sue for damages, according to the reprimand.

Gleason, an attorney since 1980, said that case was assigned to another lawyer in his firm and it “fell through the cracks.” He accepted responsibility for the mistake and said the matter was resolved, however, he would not specify how.

McCann, a 41-year city employee who retired on June 30, 2010, first sued the city and the Sullivans in federal court. But the civil suit seeking $1 million was dismissed and a second suit, filed in Essex County Superior Court, was similarly tossed. In October, a third suit was dismissed by Superior Court Judge Maynard Kirpalani, who cited legal flaws and statue of limitation issues.

The three failed lawsuits all stemmed from disciplinary action Mayor Michael Sullivan took against McCann in February 2007. Sullivan then placed McCann on a two-week unpaid suspension for what he said were a number of policy violations, including the unauthorized firing of four parking garage employees over allegations of illegal gambling and theft.

McCann was also blamed for cost overruns at the city’s Water Department facilities and for spending $800,000 on repairs to High Street, where then-City Council President Patrick Blanchette lived. A failed mayoral candidate, Blanchette is now@text1: a top aide to Mayor William Lantigua.

McCann was also accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, Andrea Traficanti, who is now McCann’s wife.

The lawsuits alleged the Sullivans called McCann and threatened him with a federal and state investigation if he didn’t resign as DPW director, a job he held since 2002. Also, McCann accused Michael Sullivan of defaming him in a 2007 Eagle-Tribune article detailing his suspension.

McCann earned $103,810 annually prior to his retirement. When he left City Hall, he was also owed $99,348 in longevity pay and unused vacation and sick time.

In April 2009, Andrea Traficanti McCann was granted a stress-related disability from her DPW job, collecting $712 per week or $37,024 per year from the city, tax free plus lifetime medical coverage and cost of living increases. The payments represent two-thirds of the $53,000 annual salary Traficanti earned as public works supervisor.

Reached yesterday, Gleason declined comment for this story.

Kevin Sullivan served as city mayor from 1986 to 1993. His brother Michael was in office from 2001 to 2009.

Follow staff reporter Jill Har@text1:macinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.