METHUEN — The City Council’s contentious search for a new solicitor slipped deeper into the rabbit hole yesterday when a councilor asked police to investigate whether the man now holding the job sent an accusing text message to a finalist as he was being interviewed by the council.
Councilor Thomas Ciulla said Solicitor Peter McQuillan should be fired if an investigation concludes he interfered with the search by sending the inflammatory text to finalist Richard D’Agostino, accusing him of lying as the council questioned him about one of his references for the solicitor’s job Tuesday night.
Ciulla accused McQuillan of using city property — the cell phone assigned to him — “to circumvent the process and to discredit a candidate.”
“There are allegations that need to be proven or not proven,” Ciulla said at a meeting he requested with Eagle-Tribune editors after the newspaper reported Thursday that McQuillan sent D’Agostino the inflammatory text during his council interview. He said it was improper for McQuillan “to send him a message when the man is interviewing, which is one of the most important days of his life, because the gentleman is trying to get a job.”
The city charter allows the council to investigate employees accused of wrongdoing and gives it power to subpoena witnesses and demand documents. The charter does not say whether the council president can instigate the investigation on his own or if a vote of the council is needed.
Council President Sean Fountain said yesterday he will seek to clarify that issue, but at the same time said he believed a vote of the full council would be needed and also said it should move cautiously. He said he wanted to meet with McQuillan to discuss the text message.
“I have no idea if any violation occurred,” Fountain said. “This is based on accusations. There was a text message sent to (D’Agostino). It could be an ethical breach. I don’t think there’s any law broken. We’re going to look at it, talk to (McQuillan) and then figure out how the council will proceed.”