EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 24, 2013

Editorial: 'As Methuen Turns': Time to call it a wrap

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Methuen seems to have a thing about long-running soap operas starring local officials.

The one about the police chief is still going after many years, despite flagging interest from the public.

So is the one about the city solicitor. But we had hoped at least that certain characters had been written out of the solicitor script.

We now learn that Richard D’Agostino, a former Lawrence assistant city attorney, and William Faraci, a former assistant Haverhill solicitor, have been invited to reapply for the Methuen solicitor’s job.

Both were finalists for the job in the last round of interviews and both were rejected when the City Council pulled the plug on the process on April Fools’ Day.

Faraci did not return a call about the council’s “invitation.” But D’Agostino was quick to RSVP.

“My desire to represent this community has not been diminished,” D’Agostino told Eagle-Tribune reporter Brian Messenger.

After what he went through, and put the council through in the last round, he must really need a job.

Council Chairman Sean Fountain said the council would also “encourage” the current solicitor, Peter McQuillan, to reapply for the job, but he spoke of McQuillan as a man with a spike already through his heart.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a resurrection ... after the problems we’ve had (with him),” Fountain said.

Don’t be so sure of that, Sean. Remember when Bobby Ewing was killed off in “Dallas” and it all turned out to be a dream?

For newcomers to the story, McQuillan is the man who succeeded Maurice Lariviere when Lariviere was videotaped behaving “inappropriately” with his secretary in his office. He was summarily confronted and pressured to resign by Police Chief Joseph Solomon, who was later spun off as the main character in ...

Oh, never mind.

See, it’s easy to poke fun at Methuen officialdom’s habit of making a public spectacle of itself.

But there’s a serious side to all of this. The city’s various scandals and controversies have a way of lingering unresolved for months or years, distracting elected and appointed officials from their real jobs, spinning off suits and countersuits and draining hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public treasury, enriching the lawyers who feed on the process.

So what next?

Fountain wants to hire a private firm to represent Methuen in the short term until a new solicitor search is launched and completed.

The city last week received an offer from one firm willing to provide its services for $175 an hour.

The never-say-die D’Agostino jumped in this week to say he’d do it for $125 an hour — “I’ll be happy to make a presentation,” he said.

Fountain said he’s seeking proposals from others and hopes to have them “in the next week or so.”

But first Fountain needs McQuillan to step down to clear the way for an interim solicitor. He told the council that would happen “within the next week or so, I’m hoping.”

The repeated “next week or so’s” and “I’m hoping” don’t inspire confidence.

Nor does the fact that almost two months have elapsed without the council taking any steps to reboot the search process. No decisions were made or votes taken at this week’s meeting.

Instead there was back-and-forth about how long this is taking and whether the full council or a new search committee will handle the search.

Can the council get it right this time and wrap up this soap opera? Can it find the full-time solicitor of its dreams and put the past behind it?

Stay tuned. Or not.