METHUEN — Mayor Stephen Zanni has hired a private law firm to represent the city and former Mayor William Manzi in the federal lawsuit filed by police Chief Joseph Solomon.
With a court date at the end of the month and uncertainty surrounding filling the city solicitor’s job, Zanni said the Quincy-based law firm Murphy, Hess, Toomey and Lehane will represent Methuen in time for a scheduling conference Feb. 26 in Boston.
“It’s in the best interest of the city,” said Zanni. “I want to be prepared. I don’t want to put the city in jeopardy at all.”
Notices of appearance for lawyers James A. Toomey and Geoffrey P. Wermuth were filed in court last week. Toomey and Wermuth will represent both the city and Manzi, who was indemnified in the case by the City Council before leaving office in 2011.
Zanni’s decision could generate some criticism at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Zanni said he does not need council approval to hire a private firm and plans to discuss the matter at the meeting.
Last winter, several councilors became angry after learning the city paid a Boston law firm roughly $450,000 over seven years for work on a sexual harassment suit involving two former City Hall employees. Councilors later voted to settle the case for $250,000.
In response, the council passed a resolution in April 2012 requiring that they be notified of all legal bills from outside law firms. Several councilors last week also argued the resolution requires council approval before private lawyers are hired by the city.
Also last winter, Zanni hired Assistant Solicitor/Human Resources Director Anne Randazzo in part to limit the outsourcing of the city’s legal work. Randazzo makes $80,578 annually.
The city’s in-house legal team consists of Randazzo and City Solicitor Peter McQuillan, but councilors voted against reappointing McQuillan to a two-year term in January.