EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 12, 2013

Former Haverhill solicitor one of 2 finalists for Methuen's top legal post

By Brian Messenger

---- — METHUEN — Two of four finalists for city solicitor abruptly withdrew from consideration last week, leaving Richard D’Agostino and William Faraci as the last candidates for Methuen’s top legal post.

Kerry Anderson and Robin Stein pulled out of the hiring process just days after they were named finalists Feb. 26., city councilors confirmed yesterday.

Anderson works in labor relations for the city of Boston, but was recently hired for a new job, the councilors said. Stein, who works as assistant city solicitor for the city of Salem, Mass., withdrew her application in an email to members of a City Council search committee.

“I have given the position a lot of thought and concluded, with much difficulty, that it is not the right position for me at this time,” wrote Stein. “Therefore, I hereby withdraw my application from consideration for the position of city solicitor.”

With Anderson and Stein out, that leaves former Lawrence assistant city solicitor D’Agostino and former Haverhill assistant city solicitor Faraci as finalists to succeed Peter McQuillan.

Faraci has a law office in Haverhill and was admitted to the bar in 1972. D’Agostino was admitted to the bar in 1996.

D’Agostino was hired as assistant city solicitor for the city of Lawrence in 2005, but was fired from the post in April 2012 after returning from 16 months of medical leave. He has since sued the city in an effort to get his job back and collect $300,000 in damages.

The City Council will meet tonight at 7 at City Hall for an “informational discussion” on the city solicitor hiring process, which was triggered Jan. 7 when councilors voted 5-4 against reappointing McQuillan to a two-year term.

Overseeing the search for McQuillan’s replacement is a committee made up of city councilors Sean Fountain, Jennifer Kannan, Lisa Ferry and Tom Ciulla, and local lawyers Arthur Broadhurst and Bryan Chase.

Tonight will be the first time the full council weighs in on the search.

“I am concerned with the two applicants we have left,” said City Councilor Jeanne Pappalardo. “My vote is to go out for another search. I don’t care if it takes another three months. We need to be cautious.”

Councilor Jamie Atkinson said he will propose that McQuillan be reappointed at least until the end of the fiscal year June 30.

“I think we should keep Peter McQuillan,” Atkinson said yesterday. “It doesn’t seem prudent to bring in someone new at this time. Because of the timing, the best thing would be to keep Mr. McQuillan.”

Twelve people applied for the city solicitor job, which will pay between $87,390 and $113,144 per year.

Fountain, chairman of the search committee, initially told The Eagle-Tribune on Feb. 11 that four finalists had been chosen. The finalists were picked Feb. 6 during a secret meeting at Broadhurst’s Methuen law office.

A public notice for the Feb. 6 meeting was never posted. The Open Meeting Law in Massachusetts requires that meetings of public bodies — including City Council subcommittees — be publicized 48 hours in advance.

The search committee met behind closed doors again Feb. 26 for several hours before releasing the names of four finalists.

Fountain also planned to hold finalist interviews in executive session and release only two names to the public. But he reversed course Feb. 13, one day after The Eagle-Tribune reported such closed-door interviews constituted another Open Meeting Law violation.

After seeking clarification from Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office, Fountain said he was told that once finalists are selected, the search committee can no longer legally interview job applicants in closed-door executive session.