City could face a world of hurt; Legal fees could total $millions

By Josh Resnek

For five months, there had been only silence coming from the top echelons of city hall about the Federal Investigation into racism and discrimination in Everett that had been announced last June by US Attorney Rachael Rollins.

US Attorney Rachel Rollins As is typical of such investigations, the US Attorney’s office does not comment on ongoing investigations and had not commented on the Everett investigation.

The institutional belief that this was just another smokescreen for an investigation that would yield nothing became a prominent feature of idle talk among city hall denizens over the months.

Then came the sudden Monday night appearance at the city council meeting of Assistant City Solicitor Keith Slattery and the city’s counsel, Attorney Linda Ricci of Greenberg Traurig seeking the payment of a $500,000 legal bill that had been run up since the day after the Federal investigation had been announced last June.

This came as a total surprise to the unwitting city council.

So too did the likelihood of another $500,000 invoice to be paid coming on the heels of this first invoice for the same amount.

Bottom line, the city is facing well over $1 million in legal fees to defend itself against allegations of racism and discrimination – and the case has not really begun in its fullest iteration.

Only councilor Stephanie Smith and Darren Costa questioned the request.

Smith expressed wonder about the situation.

“Where have you been for five months?” she asked.

“Has the bill already been paid or is this for unpaid legal fees?” Costa asked.

The appearance was given that the law firm had been put to work immediately because of the importance of the issue and that the ensuing work was heavy and complicated.

The city council had been largely overlooked.

Slattery then noted that the law firm had given the city discounts for legal services.

Here is what is known.

What we found from the appearance of these two lawyers at the city council is that the government has apparently asked for an enormous amount of of information — and very likely — that information is about hiring and firing, and about the possible lack of racial standards as required by Title VII, and about racism and discrimination itself given the events in Everett over the past five years.

This includes the School Department.

Charges of racism are not new to the School Department where the School Superintendent Priya Tahiliani has filed an action against the mayor for racism and discrimination with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

That action is still pending.

We were told the US Attorney has not reached out to the city’s new lawyers, yet — but they are sure to do this when the time arrives for such a move.

While the case remains in an investigatory state presently, that could change overnight if the government lodges charges against the city and or its public officials for infractions of Title VII.

If this investigation morphs from information gathering into charges that must be defended in Federal Court, then the need for added legal representation will be required.

Slattery and Ricci appearing last Tuesday night at the city council was a major moment in what appears to be an expanding Federal Investigation.

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