EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

April 4, 2013

Editorial: Conduct public business in public view

If the people of Methuen fear that their city has begun to spiral out of control, there is good reason for their apprehension. Their elected leaders on the City Council seem either incapable of understanding or unwilling to follow the basic principles of good government.

First among these is the principle that the public’s business must be done in the public’s view.

Despite having been criticized for holding an illegal secret meeting during the search to replace the city solicitor, three councilors Saturday met privately at a local coffee shop where they discussed city business.

That gathering has prompted a complaint from a city resident and union leader that the councilors violated the Open Meeting Law.

Michael Gagliardi, business manager of the Laborer’s International Union Local 175, said in his complaint that councilors Jennifer Kannan, Jamie Atkinson and an unnamed third councilor met at the Starbucks in The Loop on Pleasant Valley Street Saturday to discuss “a strategy for the solicitor selection process” when the discussion should have happened at a public meeting.

The third member of the group was Councilor Lisa Ferry.

Gagliardi said in his letter that the conversation was about “how to circumvent Councilor Ron Marsan, who they believed was working towards the reappointment of the current solicitor.”

The City Council has been seeking a new solicitor since January when it voted not to reappoint the current solicitor, Peter McQuillan. The search produced 12 applicants. The six-mamber search committee held an illegal secret meeting in February, at which six or eight candidates were interviewed and the field whittled down to four finalists.

Two of those four finalists withdrew in early March, leaving just two candidates and prompting calls from some councilors to either reappoint McQuillan or restart the search.

The council voted Monday 5-4 to restart the search. Voting in favor were Atkinson, Ferry, Kannan, Marsan and Councilor Jeanne Pappalardo. Gagliardi, who filed the complaint, was a supporter of finalist Richard D’Agostino, a former assistant city solicitor for Lawrence.

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