City Councilor Chuck Turner (center) stands flanked by ardent supporters outside City Hall in Boston during a rally held Monday afternoon. Turner was arrested last Friday on charges that he accepted a $1,000 bribe and lied about the payoff to federal agents. The District 7 councilor returned to work Monday, maintaining his innocence. (Lolita Parker Jr. photo)
|More than 400 supporters, many holding signs bearing pro-Chuck Turner slogans, turned out for the Monday afternoon rally outside City Hall. The embattled city councilor asked his backers to stick by him in this trying time. (Tony Irving photo)|
|As part of his efforts to assert his innocence and restore the reputation he said local media outlets are attempting to shred, Turner stopped by Grove Hall-based radio station TOUCH 106.1 FM on Monday morning. (Tony Irving photo)
The scene at City Hall was bizarre Monday as City Councilor Chuck Turner made an emotionally charged return to work following his stunning arrest by federal agents last week.
As the day unfolded, Turner and City Council President Maureen Feeney faced off in a political chess match, each working to outmaneuver the other and be the first ones to bring the public their message about the council’s reaction to Turner’s arrest last Friday.
The opening salvo came last Friday, when Feeney stripped the District 7 councilor of his posts as chair of the council’s committees on education and human rights, and scheduled a meeting for 3 p.m. on Monday to outline the council’s options for dealing with Turner.
That spurred Turner to publicize plans to hold a rally for supporters on the steps outside City Hall at 2:30 p.m., a half-hour before the council meeting.
Soon after, Feeney countered with a 1 p.m. press conference to announce she had postponed the council meeting due to concerns both that Turner and his supporters would turn the meeting into “a stage for political theater” and that “it would be premature for this body to take any decisive action today on Councilor Turner’s future.”
That didn’t dissuade Turner from holding the 2:30 rally, which drew hundreds of supporters of the longtime representative of a district that includes Roxbury, as well as parts of the Fenway, the South End and Dorchester.
In an interview with the Banner before his rally, Turner, flanked by his lawyer, John Pavlos, said he was thankful Feeney had agreed to postpone the council’s meeting on his future.
“It saved all of us from going through an unseemly situation,” he said, saying also, “It was precipitous of her to strip me of my chairmanship.”
He added, “People will understand why I’m innocent of all charges” after the trial.
Echoing a note he struck in his initial statement outside federal court in Worcester last Friday, Turner also expressed deep concern for his constituents, some of whom, he said, have threatened to go to court to have him returned to his chairmanships.
Several councilors weighed in on the spectacle as well.
“If the allegations are true, it’s an awful violation of the public trust, but I think Chuck deserves his day in court,” said City Councilor-at-Large John Connolly.
City Councilor-at-Large Michael Flaherty, the chamber’s former president, said, “As a former prosecutor and an attorney, I am committed to the principle that everyone is innocent unless and until proven otherwise. Councilor Turner is not an exception to that rule.”
However, Feeney defended her actions, saying that Turner’s situation was “unprecedented” for the council, and that the council’s Committee on Rules and Administration would look into how to proceed.
“The council is not a court of law. It is not our role to find guilt or innocence,” she said. “It is, however, both our right and our responsibility … to judge the election and qualification of our members.”(p2)