City Council Votes 11-1 for Chuck Turner Expulsion
Friday marks the end of convicted councilor's 11-year tenure on the board.
Convicted City Councilor Chuck Turner will relinquish his seat on Friday, after his colleagues voted overwhelmingly to oust him during a hearing Wednesday afternoon.
Councilor Charles C. Yancey was Turner's lone ally during the hour-long hearing, arguing that the board did not have the "explicit" right to expel any one of its members. After several unsuccessful appeals to delay a vote on the issue, Yancey encouraged fellow councilors to put Turner's actions in perspective.
"I believe we all know that Chuck Turner's not perfect," he said. "We all know he's not the greatest person in the world, but neither are we. We've all made mistakes."
In the end, the Council voted 11-1 to expel Turner from the board, with Yancey casting the only vote in opposition. Turner was forced to abstain from the vote on conflict of interest grounds.
The expulsion will take effect on Friday.
Prior to casting their votes, at-large councilors Felix Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley delivered emotional speeches praising Turner's work as an organizer and councilor.
"Every single person in this room has done things we're proud of and things we're not proud of," said Arroyo, who once worked for Turner and called him his mentor and friend. "In the end we can't escape our mistakes."
"The facts are the facts," he continued. "Chuck Turner was convicted of one of the worst crimes an elected official can be convicted of."
Amid scattered boos from the crowd, Pressley announced that she planned to support the motion to expel Turner, calling the event "a terribly sad day."
"This hearing is not a re-trial for Councilor Turner," she said, her voice wavering.
Throughout the hearing, hundreds of Turner supporters flooded City Hall, forcing city officials to open a second room for onlookers to watch a live televised version of the proceedings. Council President Michael Ross pounded the gavel frequently as the audience clapped and shouted comments to councilors on the floor.
Ross submitted the motion to expel Chuck Turner on Monday, a month after the 70-year-old councilor was convicted by a federal court jury of accepting a $1,000 bribe.
On Wednesday, Ross took issue with Yancey's suggestion that the proceedings had been rushed.
"We have not moved in haste in any way, shape, or form on this matter," he said. "We are taking action that we contemplated two years ago."
Prior to the vote, Turner urged his colleagues to consider the matter "in the context of your history," referring to previous injustices against the Irish community. Turner and his supporters continue to allege that the FBI investigation targeted Turner because of his race.
"Don't act as if the issue was whether I was convicted or not," he said. "Every scientist will tell you the fruits of trees are determined by the roots. That conviction was rotten."
A special election will be held to determine Turner's replacement as city councilor in District 7, which includes Roxbury, Lower Roxbury and portions of the South End, Fenway and Dorchester and a smidgen of JP.
In a statement, Mayor Thomas Menino commended the Council for its decision.
"Councilor Turner has represented the people of his district well for over a decade, but he has been convicted of a federal crime by a jury of his peers in a court of law," the statement read. "As elected officials, the public's trust and confidence is of the utmost importance, and we must hold ourselves and our actions to a higher standard."