EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 30, 2013

'Final' settlement offer to Solomon this week

Mayor may have to hire outside lawyers if federal case continues

(Continued)

By hiring an outside lawyer, Zanni said he could ensure the city’s legal representation has been on the case for at least several weeks prior to Feb. 27, in the event McQuillan’s successor or interim replacement is named in the coming weeks.

“I want to be prepared,” said Zanni. “There will be an additional cost, but I want to make sure we’re set going into this.”

The hiring of a private lawyer would likely prove controversial. Yesterday, Fountain said the City Council would have to approve any funding for outside legal costs.

Councilors also became angry last year after learning Methuen paid roughly $450,000 over seven years to Davis, Malm & D’Agostine for the Boston firm’s work on a sexual harassment suit involving former city legal secretary Fulya Metin Campanelli and former city solicitor Maurice Lariviere. Councilors voted to settle with Campanelli for $250,000 in January 2012.

Afterward, the council passed a resolution requiring that they be notified of all legal bills from outside law firms. Previously, the council was only informed if the bill exceeded $50,000.

Fountain also noted yesterday that Anne Randazzo was hired last year as Methuen’s assistant solicitor/human resources director specifically to limit the outsourcing of legal work.

“There is a person being paid by the city to represent the city and taxpayers,” said Fountain. “We already lost hundreds of thousands on the last suit which fell in our laps. Not going to happen again.”

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.

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