Court: City council had no right to remove Chuck Turner from office before he was sentenced
In a moral, if not practical, victory for Chuck Turner, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that while the Boston City Council has the right to pass rules on the fitness of members, it went too far in kicking the convicted Roxbury councilor out after he was convicted but before he got his three-year federal extortion sentence.
In a ruling today, the state's highest court said that procedures for removing elected officials from office need to be set out in laws passed by the state legislature. 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:
We 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. Our Constitution specifies that "officers of the Commonwealth" may be removed from office only by compliance with its specific impeachment provisions set out in Part II, c. 1, § 2, art. 8, of the Massachusetts Constitution. ... "Judicial officers" may only be removed by compliance with the address provisions in Part II, c. 3, art. 1, of the Massachusetts Constitution. ... In G.L. c. 279, § 30, the Legislature has mandated specifically that one who holds public office, including one who holds municipal office, is automatically removed from office only when he or she is sentenced to prison on a felony conviction in State or Federal court.
Turner was convicted in federal court on Oct. 29, 2010, but not sentenced until Jan. 25, 2011. The council voted to expel him on Dec. 1.
The question surrounding the council action became moot once Turner was sentenced - state law provides for automatic expulsion of elected officials after they are sentenced.
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Stenographic record. Public meetings. Boston City Council.
Stenographic record of the public meetings of Boston City Council now available, email city.council at cityofboston.gov
Folks with hearing loss, deaf, Asperger syndrome, or any disability, any interested citizen can follow the public meeting of Boston City Council.
For a more open government it would be better if Boston City Council used Plover http://plover.stenoknight.com/
people with OCD?
He said Asperger's!
He said Asperger's!
Not a lawyer, but I wonder if aggrieved persons whose issues failed at the City Council by a vote during that October-January period might not have cause to come back and claim they suffered by the council's removal of Turner.
If, in fact, there are any such persons or causes. If only we had some kind of stenographic record ... Sorry.
A city councilor can use the stenographic record...
If you're a city councilor you can use the stenographic record for disseminating your words. Let folks know your words and ask for their feedback, comment, suggestions, questions. A more open interactive city council, more open government. Reelection campaigns can use the stenographic record to let folks following your campaign know your words.
Wait, the state gets to decide...
...whether or not Boston can kick CONVICTED CRIMINALS off the council immmediately? We're still affiliated with this awful state why?
Read twice, post once.
The issue was that they kicked him off the council before he was convicted.
They kicked him off after he was convicted, but before he was sentenced. The state law takes effect on sentencing, not conviction. At the state level, that's not really an issue, since sentencing usually takes place within a couple of days of the conviction, but for some reason, federal courts usually wait a couple of months for sentencing.
Conviction should be enough...
... if the offense is serious enough, the sentence is really secondary (for the purpose of unfitness to retain office). The legislature should fix this.
I have to agree! An overreach!
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think Chuck Turner is any prize...
But since when can a City Council negate a legally elected official?
Since when can a city council overrule an election by the people?