Saturday, 2:15 PM
City Council president to end Turner investigation
By John C. Drake, Globe Staff
Boston City Council President Michael Ross said today he is ending the council's independent investigation into the federal bribery charges against Councilor Chuck Turner.
Former council president Maureen Feeney had retained retired federal judge Charles Swartwood to analyze the government's case against Turner and issue a report to City Council, setting the stage for a potential vote on whether to seek Turner's removal.
But Ross said a recent motion by prosecutors in Turner's case to prevent him from publicly discussing the evidence against him could keep the fact-finder from getting Turner's side of the story. In a Globe interview from his City Hall office this afternoon, Ross also cited the estimated $50,000 cost of Swartwood's probe.
Ross sent a letter to the city's Corporation Counsel William Sinnott today asking that Swartwood's work be suspended.
Additionally, Ross said he was submitting a new council rule that would require that if a member is convicted of a felony, the council immediately would vote on whether that member remains fit to serve on the body.
Ross's moves essentially set aside the accusations against Turner until further evidence comes to light or until the Roxbury councilor is convicted.
Ross said he was restoring Turner's membership to various council committees, but would continue to prevent him from serving as chairman of the Education and Human Rights committees.
Turner was arrested at his City Council office on Nov. 21 by federal agents on charges that he took a $1,000 bribe from an FBI informant seeking a liquor license and lied about the issue to investigators. He has since also been indicted on conspiracy charges along with former state senator Dianne Wilkerson.
Feeney responded to the arrest by stripping Turner of his committee assignments and chairmanships and seeking the fact-finder.
Before he was elected president, Ross said he supported the process Feeney had put in place after Turner's November arrest. Ross insisted today he was not passing judgment on Feeney's handling of Turner, but said the prosecutor's motion and the cost of the investigation made the fact-finding process a bad idea.