EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 28, 2013

Councilor: Like a 'fox in the hen house'

METHUEN — City Solicitor Peter McQuillan reviewed and redacted his own cell phone and email records before releasing them in response to a public records request by The Eagle-Tribune.

Mayor Stephen Zanni was aware that McQuillan, who is an employee of the City Council, was reviewing his own records and said he did not see a conflict of interest.

“He wasn’t on his own. This was done with the assistant city solicitor by his side the whole time,” Zanni said Wednesday.

The Eagle-Tribune on April 1 requested McQuillan’s cell phone, text message and email records between the dates of Jan. 1 and April 1.

City Council Chairman Sean Fountain thinks the records should not have been redacted.

“If there’s a records request, I think we should just furnish the records,” Fountain said. “Do I think people should be reviewing them? No I don’t. If it’s a city phone, it’s a city phone.”

Councilor Thomas Ciulla at a City Council meeting April 16 called it “fox in the hen house.”

“Don’t you think it’s a conflict the city solicitor is reviewing his emails and his text messages?” Ciulla said then. Zanni said he would not discuss a conflict of interest, and said assistant city solicitor Anne Randazzo was reviewing the documents with McQuillan.

During the search for a new city solicitor, triggered Jan. 7 after the City Council voted against reappointing him, McQuillan has declined to give legal opinions to the council on its search, citing the state conflict-of-interest law that bars him from participating in matters in which he has a financial interest, and has forwarded council questions to the attorney general’s office.

McQuillan did not return a phone message last Wednesday afternoon asking whether he sought the attorney general’s opinion on conflict of interest in reviewing public records requests for his documents.

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