METHUEN — With a date in federal court looming, Mayor Stephen Zanni said he is preparing a final back pay settlement proposal for police Chief Joseph Solomon.
Negotiations between the mayor and chief began in April but have failed to produce an agreement. If no deal is reached in the coming weeks, the sides will proceed Feb. 27 with a scheduling conference in federal court.
“I’ll give him a final proposal in the next few weeks,” Zanni told The Eagle-Tribune yesterday. “He’ll have a chance to respond to that before February. If he’s not agreeable, we’ll go from there.”
Zanni was not present Thursday for a roughly 90-minute executive session with the City Council and City Solicitor Peter McQuillan. The topic of the closed-door session was the ongoing legal battle between the city and Solomon and the related settlement talks, but councilors who returned phone calls yesterday offered no specifics on what was discussed.
“It was an education for us all,” said Councilor Tom Ciulla. “I think it should have been done a long time ago.”
The lawsuits between the chief and city stem from Solomon’s firing in 2008. The City Council also cut his $158,295 salary by $25,610 in 2007. Solomon returned as chief in 2010, after the state Civil Service Commission reduced his punishment to a one-year suspension. The city’s appeal of that decision was rejected by a judge in July.
The chief filed a federal suit in May 2011, accusing former Mayor William Manzi and the city of “unconstitutional and retaliatory actions” for “illegally” firing him. The city has filed counterclaims against Solomon to recoup nearly $200,000 it repaid to the federal government several years ago. The city claims the chief did not fulfill contractual duties in overseeing federal grants.
Solomon also filed suit against the city shortly after his pay was cut and has since been awarded $60,479 in back pay. The city has appealed the award.