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Mass. High Court: Boston Council Didn’t Have Authority To Oust Turner

The state’s highest court has ruled that the Boston City Council did not have the authority to remove former Councilor Chuck Turner from office after his 2010 bribery conviction.

Expelled Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)

Chuck Turner (WBUR)

As the Associated Press reports:

The Supreme Judicial Court on Friday said state law does not give municipal bodies the power to expel elected officials prior to sentencing.

“[W]e take from both the Massachusetts Constitution and the General Laws that the removal or suspension of a public officer requires specific constitutional or legislative authorization,” the justices wrote in their ruling.

Universal Hub details:

When councilors realized the state-approved city charter did not set out specific rules for booting convicts from office, they drafted and passed a special rule for the purpose – a rule Turner voted for even as he faced trial. But because that rule was not enshrined in state law, it should never have been enforced.

By a 11-1 vote, fellow councilors expelled Turner from the body in December 2010, after he had been convicted of taking a $1,000 bribe from a businessman seeking a city liquor license.

It was, then, the first time in the 100-year history of the modern Boston City Council that a member was ousted.

Turner then filed a civil suit alleging that he was illegally kicked out of office before sentencing. Turner’s lawyer told WBUR’s David Boeri that the city’s lawyer had given the council bad advice on its authority.

Friday’s SJC ruling does not affect Turner’s bribery conviction or sentencing, but, as David reported, the civil suit could make Turner eligible for some $11,000 in back pay.

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