Turner unfairly ousted from City Council, court says

July 6, 2012
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Former City Councilor Chuck Turner was ousted from his position illegally in 2010, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) opined earlier this month.

The June 15 opinion was requested by federal Judge Mark Wolf, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, who will make the final ruling, Chester Darling, Turner’s civil attorney, told the Gazette.

The court opinion does not alter Turner’s criminal conviction for bribery or the three-year sentence he is serving in a federal prison in West Virginia.

“Now that the Supreme Judicial Court has opined that there was no authority for the City Council to remove Turner as they did, it seems we have all the components of a civil rights suit,” Darling told the Gazette last week.

Turner is suing the City of Boston for terminating his employment almost two months earlier than mandated in a civil rights suit. The suit could make Turner eligible for back pay totaling an estimated $11,000.

“It should never have gone this far. The city council was misled by the [City’s] Law Department,” Darling said. “The mayor wanted Chuck kicked off the council.”

The mayor’s press office directed requests for comment to the City Council.

“Chester is a very good constitutional lawyer, but he’s not grounded in reality in these beliefs,” Council President Stephen Murphy told the Gazette this week. “The mayor is not part of the City Council. Chester doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he said stupid stuff like that.”

“They won [the opinion] because the state law is wrong and should be changed,” Murphy added.

Turner’s two-year saga began in 2007, when Turner, whose district included Egleston Square in Jamaica Plain, was indicted for taking a $1,000 bribe from an FBI informant as part of a public corruption investigation that also netted former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson.

Turner was convicted on charges that he accepted the bribe in exchange for agreeing to help the informant obtain a liquor license, and for lying to federal agents about it. He was tried and found guilty October 2010. Turner’s criminal appeal is still pending.

Turner was ousted from the council by his colleagues on Dec. 1, 2010, following a rule change that allowed such an action. Turner voted in support of the rule change, expecting to be exonerated, he previously told the Gazette.

“Under Massachusetts law, the fact that I was sentenced to prison on January 25, 2011, automatically removed me from my Council position. However, we believe that at the very least, I am entitled to the income that I would have received between my removal and the sentencing,” Turner posted on his website, supportchuckturner.com.

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