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 Turnerís claim he was wrongly removed by the council after his conviction for bribery and lying to federal agents.
"Allowing the elections to proceed will impose no hardship on Turner or the voter plaintiffs,'' Wolf wrote in a decision filed this morning. "In contrast, it is important that the citizens of District 7 be represented on the council. Candidates have been campaigning to succeed Turner. Arrangements have been made to conduct the elections. It would be disruptive, and possibly expensive, to reschedule them. Any preliminary injunction would only postpone the elections about seven weeks. Doing so would not be in the public interest. ''
At the same time, Wolf said he wants the Supreme Judicial Court to decide whether the council had the legal authority to throw Turner out of office. Wolf sent two questions of law to the high state court and stayed his decision, pending a response.
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.
Six candidates will be on the ballot for a preliminary election on Feb. 15 to fill the seat representing District 7, which includes Roxbury; Lower Roxbury; and parts of the Fenway, South End, and Dorchester. A final election is scheduled for March 15.
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