EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 19, 2013

Secret meeting held to pick solicitor

METHUEN — At least six applicants for city solicitor were interviewed last month during a secret meeting at lawyer Arthur Broadhurst’s downtown law office, The Eagle-Tribune has learned.

The meeting, which was held by a City Council subcommittee and lasted several hours, violated the state Open Meeting Law because a public notice was never filed beforehand.

But that didn’t prevent the majority of councilors last week from heaping praise on the solicitor hiring process, even after current Solicitor Peter McQuillan suggested more than one meeting was held without public knowledge — a charge Council Chairman Sean Fountain denies.

The council also acted against McQuillan’s advice when it voted last Tuesday to proceed with interviews for solicitor finalists Richard D’Agostino and William Faraci, documents show.

Two other finalists, Kerry Anderson and Robin Stein, abruptly dropped out of the running two weeks ago. Given their departure, McQuillan on March 8 wrote “a reasonable approach would be to begin the selection process anew.”

Instead, councilors voted 6-3 to move forward with interviews for D’Agostino and Faraci later this month.

The search for a new city solicitor was triggered Jan. 7 when councilors voted 5-4 against reappointing McQuillan to a two-year term. McQuillan, Methuen’s city solicitor since 2005, will remain on the job until the council names his successor.

Overseeing the search for McQuillan’s replacement is a six-member search committee made up of councilors Fountain, Jennifer Kannan, Tom Ciulla and Lisa Ferry and local lawyers Broadhurst and Bryan Chase.

Kannan and Ciulla were among the committee members to defend the search process before Tuesday’s vote.

“The process was done on the up-and-up other than that one meeting,” said Kannan, who last Friday announced she is challenging Mayor Stephen Zanni in this fall’s elections.

“I feel totally comfortable with the process,” added Ciulla. “It should continue. I don’t think there’s a problem.”

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