By: Tom Duggan – March 28, 2013
The search for a new city solicitor in Methuen has turned ugly as one of the two finalists to replace fired Attorney Peter McQuillan has found himself the subject of a smear campaign by the man he is seeking to replace.
So says Attorney Richard D’Agostino who was fired last year by Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua and one of the two finalists for the solicitor’s position.
D’Agostino says he received a text message from solicitor McQuillan while he was was answering questions at a public meeting of the city council while D’Agostino was being publicly interviewed for the job.
At the time D’Agostino was being questioned by City Councilor Jamie Atkinson in reference to a letter of recommendation that was withdrawn by one of his supporters.
D’Agostino was asked if he knew the letter had been rescinded and he said that he hadn’t, prompting this text message from current City Attorney Peter McQuillan, apparently meant for someone else:
“That’s a lie he was trying to contact Gradzewicz today!!!!” the text message said.
The text message clearly shows the time and day as: March 26 at 6:53pm, the time that D’Agostino was testifying before the council.
McQuillan has admitted to another media outlet that he did, in fact send the text.
“Whether it was meant for me or not, either way there is no sufficient answer he can give that doesn’t show his collusion in this process,” D’Agostino said. “If he maintains that he meant it for me, it opens up a lot of questions like why was he trying to influence this process by taunting a candidate for the job he was just let go from? At a public meeting no less,” D’Agostino told the Valley Patriot.
“And if he admits that this was meant for someone else, which it clearly was” D’Agostino continued, “then he needs to answer as to who he is trying to influence while a public meeting was beign conducted?”
“This text message opens up a whole can of worms for Peter because it shows that Peter McQuillan had firsthand knowledge of the fact that I did, indeed call Andy Gradzewicz and left him a voice mail but it was on another matter. But why is the outgoing city solicitor, someone who has no business being part of this process, talking to my references, illegally influencing the hiring process for his replacement by talking to Andy Gradzewicz?”
D’Agostino says that Peter McQuillan called him about four weeks prior and asked him to withdraw his name for consideration for the job. “He is actively lobbying councilors to scrap the current process and sabotage it so they will start over and he can apply. When I refused to withdraw my name he tried to sabotage my chances. Its reprehensible and disgraceful behavior for a city employee and a member of the bar no less.”
“Peter McQuillan has done more than try to prevent me from getting this job, he has done an exceptional job of humiliating me in public and besmirching my character and reputation. Because of his antic, and that’s what they are, antics, I don’t know if I can go out and get a job in another community if this doesn’t go right for me. People need to see this for what it is, a desperate attempt to taint this process so they will start over and give Peter a chance to try to get his job back.”
“That’s not fair to the twelve candidates who thought we were competing with each other when in fact we were all competing against this ghost candidate who didn’t even apply.”
D’Agostino said the he has evidence that McQuillan called another one of his references to try and get them to rescind their letter of recommendation, but would not release his name.
D’Agostino also says that he is filing a complaint against McQuillan with the state’s Bar of Board Overseers “for professional conduct violation” as well as the State’s Ethics Commission.
“As a city employee we are supposed to uphold the ethics laws of this state, he knows that. I can’t imagine that the ethics laws allow an outgoing attorney who is not involved in the process, to unduly influence the hiring of his replacement, all the while he is lobbying city councilors to bring his name back for consideration or scrap the process so he can apply.”
Attorney D’Agostino says that he will file his complaints against McQuillan some time next week.
THE LANTIGUA FACTOR
D’Agostino was fired by Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua last year on the day he returned to work from medical leave.
“Lantigua didn’t want me around, he didn’t like it when people said no to him and I said no. There are a lot of things that Lantigua wanted me to do and I refused, I wasn’t on the team and I wasn’t part of the cabal up there so he wanted me gone. I would think that would be a strength for my candidacy in Methuen, but McQuilllan’s friends have done a very good job of somehow turning that into a negative, saying that I’m too ‘controversial’.
“And it concerns me,” D’Agostino admits, “that my detractors can paint me as too controversial, but that should be looked at as a strength not a weakness. I am controversial, that’s true but that’s because, if you look at my time in Lawrence or anywhere else, I stood up for the right thing. When you fight for the right things you tend to step on some people’s toes and those people tend to retaliate.”
“If Methuen want a go along to get along type of city solicitor that’s not me. If they want someone who is going to play politics like what they have now, I’m the wrong guy. But if they want someone who is going to stand up and say this is wrong, if they want someone who isn’t afraid to be controversial when it really counts to speak truth to power, then they ought to hire me, it’s that simple.”
“Throughout my public career I had always believed that people like a fighter, someone who will step into the ring for them and fight as hard he can for them. I will fight just has hard for the people of Methuen as I did for the people of Lawrence. What some people don’t like, especially the politicians, is that I make my decisions based on laws and facts, not politics.”
D’Agostino said the he hopes McQuillan and Lantigua’s efforts behind the scenes will be exposed and that they will backfire.
“I think I f I am fortunate enough to be named city solicitor people will be very happy with my performance. I worked hard in Lawrence, I did a good job. I represented the people with zeal, but I also wasn’t one of Lantigua’s cronies and there was constant conflict because I wouldn’t go along with a lot of what Lantigua wanted. Why do you think he had me walked off the property my first day back to work. HE didn’t want me there. It was Lantigua’s decision to let me go. That should say something about the people trying to stop me from getting appionted in Methuen.”
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