METHUEN — The mayor says he’s reached a contractual agreement with a private law firm hired to provide legal services in the absence of a city solicitor.
The City Council voted in late May to hire municipal firm Kopelman and Paige, but Mayor Stephen Zanni said he would not transfer the funds needed to pay the Boston-based outfit until a written contract was reached.
Zanni said he and Kopelman and Paige representative Mark Reich agreed to a service contract on Monday. Zanni said Reich in turn has handed the agreement over to council Chairman Sean Fountain for review.
“I’ve set up all the parameters of the agreement,” said Zanni. “It’s pretty straight forward.”
It is unclear if councilors will vote on the contract. A call to Fountain was not returned earlier this week.
Zanni did not provide a copy of the contract to a reporter. But he said the agreement establishes workflow guidelines for city department heads looking to work with the law firm.
Councilors agreed when they hired Kopelman and Paige to pay the firm a flat hourly fee of $175. But under the contract, Zanni said the city will be charged different rates depending on the duration of the work and whether it was conducted in person, over the phone or through email. “I think it protects the city,” said Zanni.
Zanni said it is still unclear exactly how much the agreement will Kopelman and Paige will cost the city each month.
The mayor said the contract also gives the city added flexibility for legal coverage during City Council meetings. Zanni said councilors will be able to opt for either a law firm representative or Assistant City Solicitor Anne Randazzo.
Zanni said Randazzo has provided legal coverage for the city ever since former solicitor Peter McQuillan worked his last day May 31. “She’s been holding down the fort,” said Zanni.
McQuillan’s departure ended a contentious five-plus months that began Jan. 7 when the City Council voted against reappointing him to a new two-year term.
McQuillan retained his job as Methuen’s top lawyer as the council unsuccessfully worked to find a replacement. After the search stalled, councilors voted to hire Kopelman and Paige to assume the duties of solicitor.
McQuillan remained on the city payroll until June 30, despite working his last day one month prior.
He collected over $2,000 per week in paid vacation in June and was due a $40,500 buyout package for his unused vacation and sick time after being removed from the city payroll.