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City Council defends Chuck Turner ouster But lawyer sees no grounds

City Council defends Chuck Turner ouster
But lawyer sees no grounds

IN CHARGE: Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, left, congratulates new City Council President Stephen Murphy after he was voted in yesterday.
By O’Ryan Johnson  |   Tuesday, January 4, 2011  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Local Politics
Photo by Ted Fitzgerald

Boston city councilors yesterday defended their ouster of Boston City Councilor Charles Turner in the face of his federal court challenge, saying they moved deliberately and were given “excellent advice.”

“We were given excellent advice by corporate counsel,” said City Councilor Michael Ross, who presided over the vote.

“I was very reluctant to move too quickly throughout the entire process,” Ross said.

“We were pressured to move forward two years ago. I had an opportunity to do so then. . . . We were very cautious and deliberate in our actions,” Ross added.

Turner, recently convicted of a felony, filed an injunction in U.S. District Court in Boston late last week that seeks to immediately reinstall him on the board.

Turner’s lawyer, Chester Darling of Andover, said councilors had no authority under the city charter to make the vote, but relied on a court decision from 1874, Peabody v. Boston School Committee, that allowed the committee to ban a woman from the board.

“It’s not in the Boston Charter. . . . They don’t have the jurisdiction to do it,” Darling said. “They’re relying on a hundred-year-old court decision that barred a woman from the school committee because she was a woman. She was elected, but she wasn’t seated because they didn’t want a woman on the committee.”

Turner was convicted in October of taking a $1,000 bribe from an FBI informant. He is due to be sentenced at the end of this month.

U.S. District Court Chief Justice Mark Wolf will hear Turner’s injunction, but no court date has been set.

Darling said if Turner is jailed, then there are legal functions to remove him from the City Council, but simply being convicted of a felony is not enough with existing law.

City Council President Stephen Murphy said the council will abide by whatever decision the court makes. He said if necessary, that includes stopping a special election process that is already under way.

“I would not be in a position to debate whether Chester Darling is correct. . . . I think we were comfortable with the level of legal expertise advising us,” Murphy said. “At the time, being with Ross in the room with city attorneys, they were very, very forceful that we had the authority.”

Murphy was unanimously elected president of the City Council yesterday morning in a ceremony that was attended by Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo. Murphy replaces Ross, who served two years as president.

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1307193

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