A federal judge today cleared the way for Boston to hold a special election next week to fill the City Council seat left vacant when Chuck Turner was thrown out of office.
Chief US District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf said the residents of District 7 would be denied their right to be represented in the council if he accepted Turner’s claim he was wrongly removed by the council after his conviction for bribery and other federal corruption charges.
Wolf did conclude that Turner’s arguments that the City Council lacked the authority to remove him from office were important enough to ask the Supreme Judicial Court to resolve them (federal courts often certify difficult questions of state law to the state’s highest court rather than trying to answer them on their own). But that is a moot point as far as the election itself goes:
If Turner is successful and the courts agree that the council overstepped its authority, he still will not be able to regain his seat. He was sentenced to three years in prison on Jan. 25, and state law stipulates that a imposition of a prison term automatically removes someone from office. Turner would be eligible, however, for roughly eight weeks of back pay.
This is good news for the people of District 7 who should not be without representation any longer than absolutely necessary. The preliminary election, featuring six candidates, is set for Feb. 15, and the final is March 15.