By WGBH News
Nov. 8, 2010
BOSTON — City Councilor Chuck Turner’s refusal to resign his office despite his recent federal corruption conviction and repeated calls for his ouster may lead his City Council colleagues toward an unprecedented step: Expelling one of their own members.
Two years ago, the embattled city councilor was charged with accepting a $1,000 bribe from an FBI informant — and is the only city councilor ever to be re-elected while facing federal charges. Now, after being convicted of attempted extortion and three counts of perjury two weeks ago, he’s still fighting to keep his seat. Turner has continued his regular council duties and says he’ll continue to do so, although he doesn’t plan to run for office again.
Turner has requested the city council not conduct disciplinary hearings on his behavior until he is sentenced on Jan. 25, but the City Council President Mike Ross called for a Dec. 1 hearing that will determine Turner’s future on the council.
“(It’s) a step that’s never been taken on the history of the Council,” Ross said, referring to the potential removal of a councilmember, which could result from that hearing.
In an interview with Emily Rooney on Monday, Ross expressed sympathy for Turner. “This is an unfortunate circumstance for a colleague and a friend, and this city,” Ross said, adding that, as an attorney himself, he would have liked to see Turner’s trial go differently.
But he hoped it wouldn’t come down to a hearing. Ross says he spoke to Turner hours after his conviction. “I asked him if he would be willing to resign, and he said he would not,” Ross said.
So now, the council is moving forward. “We have but one justice system in our country and we may like the outcome, we may not like the outcome of those decisions, that’s not really the point. A felony conviction was had, our rules speak to what happens when there’s a felony conviction and I’m moving forward for the good of the body.”
Turner actually helped draft the very rules that may lead to his removal from the council. When he was first charged with taking the bribe, the city council sat down to draft a protocol for handling members who get into trouble. The council unanimously decided that, in the event of a felony conviction for one of its members, the council would take a vote on whether the member could remain.
Turner has asked the council to wait until his January sentencing before taking that vote, knowing that he may not be given a prison sentence. But Ross says the rules won’t allow for a wait. “It says we act upon conviction,” Ross said. “Councilor Turner could have, at the time we were making these rules, recommended that we move upon sentencing. That’s not what occurred.”
In the coming weeks, Ross will decide the motion on which the council will vote — and he doesn’t want to rush things. “To be sure in my steps so that whatever I do does not get undone, those are very important steps that I have to go through,” Ross said. But he says his action will be a “decisive” one.
Ross insists the hearing won’t be personal. “This is not about one member, it’s about the integrity of the City Council,” Ross said. “It’s my job as the President of the body to not protect a single person but to really protect the entire integrity of the body.”
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