EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 19, 2013

Lawyer's empty chair bothers council

By Brian Messenger

---- — METHUEN — Several city councilors say they are frustrated by the absence of legal counsel at their meetings after Assistant Solicitor Anne Randazzo failed to attend a meeting Monday night.

Council Chairman Sean Fountain said he’s repeatedly asked Mayor Stephen Zanni to ensure that Randazzo is present at council meetings. In addition to her role as assistant solicitor, Randazzo also works as human resources director.

“I think this is probably the fifth (meeting) that we requested and still we haven’t seen anybody,” said Fountain.

Councilors hired the private law firm Kopelman and Paige earlier this year to assume the duties of the vacant city solicitor position. But Fountain said councilors prefer to have Randazzo at their meetings instead of a representative from Kopelman and Paige since the firm charges $200 per meeting.

“If she’s not going to take part ... I think the council should take a look at that,” said Councilor Jennifer Kannan. “We as a body agree that we want someone in the (solicitor’s) chair. We have Kopelman and Paige, but if somebody is a salaried employee being paid for that position, that chair shouldn’t be empty.”

Fountain said Zanni has not responded to multiple requests from councilors about the issue.

“I have addressed that numerous times,” said Fountain. “A lot of the councilors have sent emails. We’ve asked for her to be present and I haven’t got correspondence the last three times.”

In response, Zanni said yesterday he will draft a policy in the coming days to ensure Randazzo is present at any future council meetings when legal advice is needed.

“They’ve requested that she be there,” said Zanni. “The assistant solicitor will be at all future meetings that require a legal opinion or legal advice. As she’s needed, she will be there.”

Randazzo could not be reached for comment yesterday.

This isn’t the first time Randazzo has been criticized by the council. In March, Fountain questioned her work performance, stating: “I don’t know what the assistant does to assist with the department of law. I haven’t seen much.”

Randazzo was hired shortly after Zanni took office in January 2012 to fill the newly-created position of assistant solicitor and human resources director. She makes $85,767 annually.