EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 20, 2013

$40K buyout package plus paid vacation for solicitor

McQuillan on Methuen payroll until June 30

By Brian Messenger

---- — METHUEN — Former city solicitor Peter McQuillan’s last day working at City Hall was May 31, but he will remain on the city payroll until June 30 while collecting over $2,000 per week in paid vacation.

Once removed from the payroll, McQuillan will be paid a $40,500 buyout package for his unused vacation and sick time.

McQuillan’s departure will bring to an end a contentious five-plus months that began Jan. 7 when the City Council voted against reappointing him to a new two-year term.

McQuillan retained his job as Methuen’s top lawyer as the council unsuccessfully worked to find a replacement. Councilors have since voted to hire private municipal law firm Kopelman and Paige to assume the duties of solicitor.

It remains unclear if the Boston-based firm will have to wait for McQuillan to come off the payroll before taking over.

McQuillan’s exit as solicitor was first announced by City Council Chairman Sean Fountain. On May 6, Fountain told city councilors that McQuillan would step down in late May. No specific departure date was given until May 31, when Fountain told The Eagle-Tribune that McQuillan had just completed his last day of work.

On May 21, Fountain and McQuillan both signed a “leave request” form granting McQuillan a 34-day paid vacation beginning May 28 and ending June 30. The form was obtained by The Eagle-Tribune this week.

McQuillan had already earned the vacation time based on his prior service. He began working as solicitor in 2005 and received six weeks of paid vacation per year.

Had he been removed from the city payroll after his last day of work May 31, McQuillan still would have received a buyout package for his unused vacation and sick time totalling $49,846.62.

But by drawing down his balance of unused paid vacation days from May 28 to June 30, McQuillan will instead collect $11,418 in salary and longevity benefits over that time, which is the equivalent of $2,175.84 per week.

Upon being removed from the city payroll, McQuillan will then receive a lesser buyout package of $40,501.51.

Ultimately, McQuillan will be paid an extra $2,072.74 by staying on the city payroll for one extra month. The extension allowed him to earn his full vacation and longevity benefits this year as opposed to an 11-month prorated benefit.

Whether McQuillan’s extra month on the payroll will delay Kopelman and Paige from providing legal services for the city remained unclear yesterday.

The City Council voted in late May to hire the firm at a rate of $175 per hour, but the move is contingent on a $33,000 budget transfer. Earlier this month, Mayor Stephen Zanni informed Fountain in a memo that he will not authorize the transfer until he receives a “formal, signed notice from the Council that Peter McQuillan is no longer under the employ of the city.”

McQuillan’s separation of employment from the city will not occur until June 30, according to a “payroll/personnel change” form obtained by The Eagle-Tribune. The form was signed on Monday by McQuillan, Fountain and Zanni and on Friday by City Auditor Thomas Kelly.

City officials said last week they could not take McQuillan off the payroll until they received the signed form.

Last week, Fountain provided The Eagle-Tribune with 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.

But Zanni said yesterday that the May 31 agreement was not enough to remove McQuillan from the payroll.

“That agreement didn’t mean anything, really,” said Zanni. “This should have been resolved a long time ago.”

Attempts to reach Fountain and McQuillan for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.