Councilors renew call for settlement

Brian Messenger | Eagle Tribune

The city is not expected to appeal a recent judge’s decision to uphold the Civil Service Commission ruling that reinstated Joseph Solomon as police chief two years ago.

City Council Chairman Jennifer Kannan said she met with Mayor Stephen Zanni and City Solicitor Peter McQuillan yesterday to discuss the decision, which was issued Thursday by Lawrence Superior Court Judge Robert Cornetta.

Cornetta rejected every argument made by the city as to why the Civil Service Commission ruling should be overturned. Kannan said it is unlikely the city will file an appeal, based on her discussions with Zanni and McQuillan.

“That’s probably the right thing to do,” Kannan said. “The court sided with Civil Service on the issue. To keep going. I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the city.”

Cornetta’s decision also renewed calls from city councilors for a legal settlement between Solomon and the city.

“I don’t want to appeal anything,” said Councilor Michael Condon. “Enough is enough. I want to get this issue behind us. I think the chief is doing a good job. There has to be some give and take.”

“Look at the outcome (of the appeal),” said Councilor Sean Fountain. “I’m definitely unhappy. We need to move forward. I don’t know how long we’re going to drag our feet. It’s something that should have been settled long ago.”

Settlement negotiations between the city and Solomon began in April but broke down about a week before they met in federal Judge Mark Wolf’s South Boston chambers June 19 for a settlement conference.

Officials have repeatedly refused to disclose a potential settlement amount. The talks sought to end three ongoing legal cases: Solomon’s federal lawsuit against the city and former Mayor William Manzi; the city’s Civil Service appeal; and a superior court case in which Solomon was awarded $49,000 in lost wages.

Both Fountain and Councilor Jamie Atkinson were holding out hope for a settlement yesterday.

“The longer it goes the more it’s going to hurt the city,” said Atkinson. “It all depends on what the cost is. I don’t want it to be too pricey. I don’t know how much the mayor is offering or how much the police chief is asking for. I hope they come to some sort of agreement.”

“How long are we going to put salt in the wounds here?” added Fountain. “It’s over. The chief is back. Move forward.

“I think it’s a waste of the court’s time and a waste of taxpayer money to keep fighting this. Each turn (Solomon) has another victory. It means the payout’s going to be higher.”

Manzi fired Solomon in May 2008, claiming the chief verbally abused officers, misspent federal grant money and broke state law by using taxpayer money to buy marine equipment from his sister and brother-in-law.

Solomon appealed his firing with the Civil Service Commission, which reduced the punishment to a one-year suspension and ordered Solomon reinstated as police chief in 2010. The city challenged the Civil Service ruling later that year in Lawrence Superior Court. A hearing was held in May of this year before Cornetta during which both sides argued their cases.

Solomon was not available for comment yesterday. A call to Zanni was not returned.

McQuillan said he received Cornetta’s decision yesterday and sent a memo about it to city councilors.

He declined to comment further and would not say whether the city will appeal it.

“It’s still being reviewed,” McQuillan said