EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 6, 2013

Methuen Council to reorg, might boot lawyer

Fountain may be named chair

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

---- — METHUEN — City councilors are expected to name Sean Fountain their next chairman tomorrow night, but questions remain regarding the nomination of a vice-chairman and the reappointment of the city solicitor.

Fountain, 40, of Hampshire Road, is poised to take over for current Chairwoman Jennifer Kannan, according to multiple councilors interviewed Friday. He is a first-term councilor representing the city’s West District and works as a firefighter in North Andover.

“If I get the nomination, I’ll definitely take it,” said Fountain. “I welcome the opportunity.”

Councilors on Monday night will elect a new chairman and vice-chairman for 2013. They’ll also decide whether to reappoint for two years City Solicitor Peter McQuillan, City Auditor Thomas Kelly and City Council Clerk Linda Gagnon.

“I think there’s two appointments that are going to go smoothly,” said Councilor Tom Ciulla. “It’s with the city attorney — it’s going to be complicated. ... It’s going to be a difficult vote for everybody.”

Also on the council agenda Monday is a deciding vote on Mayor Stephen Zanni’s IT reorganization plan, which will cap 12 months of planning and debate over whether to privatize the four-employee municipal Information Technology department.

Councilors can nominate any of their colleagues for chairman and vice-chairman.

“I think Sean’s a knowledgeable kid,” said Councilor Ron Marsan. “I think he can control a meeting. ... It’s the chair that runs the show.”

“I think (Fountain) will be fine,” said Pappalardo. “I think he’ll be fair and I’m hoping that he’s going to run the meeting the way it should be run, according to Robert’s Rules of Order and not his own rules.”

On Friday, Councilor-at-large Michael Condon was considered the front-runner for vice-chairman. But several councilors said there are concerns over Condon’s recent meeting attendance — he did not attend a public hearing Thursday on IT privatization and also missed an executive session Dec. 27 where councilors discussed the ongoing lawsuit and settlement talks with police Chief Joseph Solomon.

Joyce Campagnone currently serves as vice-chairman. She and Ciulla are both believed to be interested in the nomination.

Condon, who owns the Sweetheart Inn on Myrtle Street, said he’s only missed one regular meeting since returning to the council in 2012. He served as vice-chairman during a previous stint on the council that ended in 2005.

“I think I bring a lot of experience,” said Condon. “I love Methuen. I’m a townie. I’ve been here all my life.”

McQuillan, Kelly and Gagnon are all supervised by the council. Their current appointments expire Jan. 15.

Multiple councilors interviewed said Kelly and Gagnon will be reappointed. As for McQuillan, several councilors brought up the expensive lawsuits and settlements Methuen has been involved with in recent years as reasons why they are not happy with him.

“I think there will be some discussion prior to taking a vote,” said Councilor Jamie Atkinson. “(McQuillan) holds a very difficult position in the city. Some people weren’t happy with what’s happened over the years, so there may be some concerns.”

Others said they will vote to reappoint all three officials.

“They’re all in,” said Marsan. “I don’t have an issue with any of them.”

“He’s not just the city solicitor, he’s my friend,” said Condon. “There are some councilors that are not happy with Peter. ... It’s hard to keep everybody happy, especially under some difficult times and difficult issues Peter is going through. It’s been a lot of pressure on the guy.”