EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 5, 2007

Both sides talk settlement in ex-solicitor's lawsuit

By Stephanie Chelf , Staff writer

METHUEN - Ex-City Solicitor Maurice Lariviere's lawsuit against the city could be headed toward an out-of-court settlement.

Both Lariviere and Mayor William Manzi said they will consider settling the case before it heads to trial in federal court Nov. 13.

"The last thing I ever thought about was suing that town," Lariviere said. "Am I willing to work out an agreement if (Manzi) comes forward? Yes. I don't want to drag people into court. I've got no choice. I've been waiting for the truth to come out."

Lariviere alleges Chief Joseph Solomon and Deputy Chief Joseph Alaimo threatened him with arrest if he did not resign in February 2005. The confrontation happened after police say they caught Lariviere on hidden camera sexually harassing his secretary.

Solomon and Alaimo say he resigned willingly. Lariviere maintains the relationship was consensual. He is seeking reinstatement of his job, lost wages and damages. He was the city solicitor for 25 years.

Manzi says the city would consider a settlement out of court.

"I'm more than willing to sit down and talk about any settlement that appears to be reasonable," Manzi said. "Unfortunately for me, this is one of the items leftover (from the previous administration). It's not what I'd like to be spending my time as mayor on."

Any settlement would be covered by insurance, Manzi said.

The city and police, through their lawyers, tried to avoid a trial by asking the judge to throw out the case. The judge denied the request.

Lariviere said he was "thrilled" with the judge's decision, but the distress over the past two years, he said, is "too painful to talk about."

William DiAdamo, Lariviere's lawyer, said Lariviere has been unable to get a new job since leaving Methuen.

"What they've done to this guy is devastating," DiAdamo said.

Solomon's attorney, Andrew Gambaccini, was not available for comment. Attorney John Vigliotti, who works with Gambaccini but does not represent Solomon, said the decision by the judge not to throw out the case on what is called a summary judgment motion does not mean Lariviere's complaint has merit.

"It doesn't mean (the plaintiff's case) has more merit," Vigliotti said. "It's more that it is a factual dispute. There are disputes over what occurred, and it's up to a jury to decide."

Both sides will now prepare for trial, by submitting witness lists, agreeing on a statement of facts and proposing exhibits. DiAdamo said he will seek to have the hidden camera video submitted as evidence in the trial and played in the court.

Officials have not released the video, and The Eagle-Tribune has filed an appeal to view the tape.

Meanwhile, former secretary Fulya Metin has her own pending lawsuit against Lariviere and the city.

Her lawyer, Marsha Kazarosian, notified the city in June that Metin had withdrawn a discrimination complaint with a state board and instead will take the case to court. Kazarosian said the complaint, which has not yet been filed, would include charges of sexual harassment, assault and battery and emotional distress. Metin will also seek lost wages, damages for emotional distress and attorney's fees.

"We face a two-pronged legal problem here - the Lariviere suit as well as prospective Metin lawsuit puts us in a unique legal situation," Manzi said. "It's important for the city to close the door on both. It's regretful that I have to spend so much time on things that aren't productive for the city in traditional sense."