EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 17, 2013

Solicitor search delayed

'Lame duck' law prevents appointment

METHUEN — It’s looking more like the city will close out 2013 without a solicitor.

The state’s “lame duck” law prevents city councilors from making appointments beyond Sept. 30, or within the final three months of their two-year term. As a result, with no immediate plan in place to restart the solicitor search that stalled this spring, the task of hiring Methuen’s top lawyer will likely be handed over to the new council taking office in January.

The city has been without a solicitor since June 1. In May, the City Council voted to hire private municipal law firm Kopelman and Paige to assume the duties of the office.

The search for a new solicitor began in January, after councilors voted against reappointing Peter McQuillan to a two-year term. McQuillan retained the job until June 30, the end of the fiscal year, despite working his last day May 31.

The process to hire McQuillan’s replacement stalled April 1 following a series of controversies and has yet to pick up again. That night, a motion to appoint finalist Richard D’Agostino to a two-year term as solicitor was defeated 5 to 4.

Several attempts to restart the solicitor search in recent months have proven unsuccessful.

On June 6, councilors Jamie Atkinson and Ron Marsan put forth a resolution to restart the hiring process by forming a new search committee and establishing specific “search guidelines and parameters” as well as a detailed step-by-step timeline.

That resolution was defeated 6-3, with only Atkinson, Marsan and Jeanne Pappalardo voting to restart the search.

What followed was a series of contradictory moves by Councilor Joyce Campagnone.

In July, Campagnone proposed a request to reconsider the June 6 vote against reopening the hiring process. But she abruptly scrapped her plan just one minute into a public meeting by removing her proposal from the agenda.

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