The Globe reports a federal judge isn't so sure the Boston City Council had the authority to boot Chuck Turner over his federal bribery/perjury convictions and wants the city to convince him by Friday - three days before another federal judge is scheduled to sentence Turner, which could make the whole thing moot if that judge puts Turner in prison, since state law requires the unseating of imprisoned officials.
Mike Ball briefly considers the "big honking egos" of Turner and his lawyer, the guy who won the case to ban gays from the St. Patrick's Day parade in South Boston, before getting to a longer-term issue: home rule. The whole question of Turner's expulsion seems to hinge on state law - to which federal judges traditionally cede oversight of elections. As Turner acolyte Charles Yancey argues, state law only mentions imprisonment, not conviction, and the city charter mentions it not at all - Turner was booted under a separate council rule enacted after Turner's arrest. Ball cries foul:
Massachusetts has an anachronistic, paternalistic system whereby the legislature treats municipalities like serfs. Each city and town must beseech the General Court for even minor changes in governing themselves. ...
We heard the current version of the role of home rule during the special meeting of the Boston Council considering Turner's status. There his friend and sole supporter, Councilor Charles Yancey, invoked the home-rule specter repeatedly. He held for Turner that unless the city charter explicitly reads the Council can expel a member, it can't, regardless of its authority to determine its membership.
That is what we learned in civics classes differentiated the old Soviet regime from ours. In the USSR, everything not specifically permitted is forbidden. Allegedly in America, everything not forbidden is permitted. It looks like we remain on the wrong side.