Councilman Had a Right to Seat, Postconviction

     (CN) – The Boston City Council did not have the right to expel a member who was convicted of extortion, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled.
     Charles Turner was convicted of extortion and making false statements to a federal official in October 2010. Before he was sentenced, the council invoked its rules to remove him from his seat.
     Turner joined some of his constituents for a federal challenge to the council’s action, suing the city of Boston, the council and 11 of its 13 members.
     Having received a certified question from the District of Massachusetts, the state Supreme Court replied last week that Turner’s removal was illegal.
     “We conclude that the city council was authorized to promulgate Rule 40A but did not have the authority, under any provision of state law, to employ the rule to remove Turner from office,” Justice Margot Botsford wrote for a seven-member court.
     Turner ultimately lost his council seat when he was sentenced to three years in federal prison.
     Despite this, “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,” Botsford wrote.

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