The City Council voted today to expel District 7 Councilor and convicted felon Chuck Turner, effective Dec. 3. Only Councilor Charles Yancey voted against expulsion.
Two of Turner's past supporters, Felix Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley, joined nine other councilors in voting to eject Turner. Both had tears in their eyes as they explained their votes. Both of them praised Turner for his tireless work, both said they loved him - but both said the federal conviction left them no choice. Pressley said she was heartsick and was "deeply troubled" by the way the feds went after Turner; Arroyo, who once worked for Turner, said everybody has made mistakes and regretted the vote was a black-and-white issue rather than something that could be seen in shades of gray.
Turner himself maintained his innocence and said only councilors who really felt they were morally more able than him to serve should vote for expulsion - the first time the council has ever considered ejecting a member.
Turner alternated between race and class in an explanation of why the feds came after him. At one point, he said then US Attorney Michael Sullivan went after him and convicted ex-Sen. Dianne Wilkerson because blacks were raising themselves too much for the comfort of the Republicans in Washington. At another point, he said Sullivan came after him because he spoke truth to power on behalf of the working class.
Turner compared his plight to that of the Irish generations ago. He yelled that James Michael Curley would be ashamed of Sullivan, whom he said had clearly forgotten the real enemy of both the Irish and blacks is the Yankee upper class.
After the vote, at a brief rally/support circle on the steps of City Hall, Turner went further, accusing the five Irish city councilors who voted against him of forgetting their heritage and vowing that he would make them remember it in the next city-council elections, in 2011. Turner did not address the six non-Irish councilors (three Italians, a Latino, a black and a Jew) who also voted against him.
Yancey repeatedly raised objections to the vote, calling it illegal because it occurred the same day councilors received formal notice of the hearing and because the city charter does not specifically give the council the power to "expel" a member. City Council President Michael Ross and city lawyer William Sinnott, however, said Yancey was wrong on both counts, in part because of a council rule - passed after Turner's indictment two years ago and with his consent - that lets the council decide whether a member is fit to serve.
Other councilors did not rise to explain their votes.
After the vote and after meeting with supporters, Turner walked away, alone, toward the steps leading to Congress Street.