EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 17, 2013

Methuen without a lawyer

METHUEN — The city has been without legal counsel since June 1 because former solicitor Peter McQuillan is still on the payroll, meaning the firm the council already voted to hire cannot take over.

City officials said they cannot take McQuillan off the payroll until they receive a required document certifying when his last day on the city payroll will be and outlining the conditions of his vacation buyout. City Council Chairman Sean Fountain said his office has done everything required of it.

Mayor Stephen Zanni and Fountain are pointing fingers over who is holding up the process.

“The council at this point in time is dysfunctional,” Zanni said. “We’ve bee going back and forth for six months now.”

He said McQuillan has not submitted any documentation outlining the day he is to be taken off the payroll and how his buyout will take place.

City Auditor Thomas Kelly said McQuillan is still on the payroll, drawing down his accrued vacation. He said he cannot take McQuillan off the payroll, which would clear the way for the law firm Kopelman and Paige to take over at an hourly rate of $175, until he receives the document.

“Legally, if I just took him off I could find myself in jeopardy,” Kelly said.

If McQuillan allows his vacation to continue to draw down on the payroll, he would receive $49,780.69, Kelly said. If he were to take a buyout, he would receive $48,484.49.

At the last council meeting, Fountain told the council he signed off on an agreement allowing McQuillan to take June as vacation, potentially keeping him on the payroll for the entire month.

“I can’t get this done until I have an end date,” Zanni said.

Fountain provided The Eagle-Tribune an agreement dated May 31 that specifies McQuillan’s “attorney-client relationship” with the city of Methuen ended at 4:30 p.m. on May 31.

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