Politics

Amid Ricardo Arroyo’s controversy, battles brew on the Boston City Council

“If this were a police officer, if this were a firefighter, if this were a custodian, we’d be calling for their removal. But because he's part of the political elite, he's left alone.”

Lane Turner/Globe Staff
Lane Turner/Globe Staff
Ricardo Arroyo

The Boston City Council appears to be increasingly at odds with itself, with two councilors filing essentially city subpoenas for information on their colleagues and City Council President Ed Flynn temporarily stripping chairmanships from Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, following controversy that has embroiled Arroyo over the past week.

A candidate for Suffolk County district attorney, Arroyo, 34, was investigated twice — but not charged — as a teenager for possible sexual assaults, a Boston Globe report published last week found.

Arroyo has denied any wrongdoing and having ever known he was a suspect, although at least one of the police reports reviewed by the Globe contradicts the latter statement.

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The report sent shockwaves through the city’s political sphere only weeks before the Sept. 6 primary election — and the rumble has reached the City Council chamber.

On Friday, Councilor Frank Baker, who has butted heads with Arroyo on the council before, began filing subpoenas for police and school records related to the investigations surrounding Arroyo, GBH News reported. Baker formally filed the request on Monday.

Apparently in response, on Monday, Councilor Kendra Lara, an Arroyo supporter, filed a police information request of her own, seeking information about Baker’s guilty plea to a charge of marijuana possession with intent to sell in 1993 — nearly two decades before he was elected to represent District 3.

And also on Monday, Flynn, the council president, notified City Clerk Alex Geourntas he had temporarily re-adjusted committee assignments for 60 days, removing Arroyo from his chairmanship positions.

Arroyo was the sitting chair of the powerful Committee on Government Operations and of the council’s redistricting committee. He was also the vice chairman on the entire council.

Arroyo and Lara, in separate remarks, criticized the move as a means to disrupt Arroyo’s attempt to make council districts more diverse.

“There are no grounds for my removal from any of my committees,” Arroyo told the Globe in a statement.

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Here’s what to know:

Baker, in his request for information — known on the council as a 17F Order — wrote that it is “important in the interest of transparency that the City Council has the necessary information in order to ensure the integrity of the body and the fitness of its members to serve in chairmanship positions.”

The filing asks for “any and all relevant” police records, school safety reports, restraining orders or stay-away orders, victim statements, and communication among parties, including BPS, police, and the Arroyo family and/or its representatives.

Baker, via the request, asks Mayor Michelle Wu to deliver the documents within a week, and to respond to the request within 48 hours.

On Friday, Baker told GBH News he believes his request is “definitely going to uncover something.”

Baker, who has endorsed Arroyo’s primary opponent, Interim District Attorney Kevin Hayden, in the district attorney’s race, downplayed a suggestion that his request was politically motivated though.

However, he said that no action on the matter would serve the interests of those who have backed Arroyo in the election.

“We’re talking about someone that’s involved in policy and involved in decisions for people of the City of Boston,” Baker told GBH.

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“If this were a police officer, if this were a firefighter, if this were a custodian, we’d be calling for their removal,” he continued. “But because he’s part of the political elite, he’s left alone.”

Baker, on Friday, also said he was not confident Flynn or other councilors would take action in light of the report.

However, he said he would withdraw the request if Flynn were to take other action. (Flynn removed Arroyo from his chairmanships on Monday.)

Baker also said he had not discussed the request with his colleagues prior to filing it.

“I’m sure some of them are going to be ruffled feathers because they want the [story] buried. I think it’s a serious charge,” Baker said.

Section 17F Re Documents Related to Any Investigation of Ricardo Arroyo While Preserving the Victims’ Priva… by Christopher Gavin on Scribd

Lara filed a request for records to Baker’s own drug-related conviction.

In an apparent retaliatory move, Lara, on Monday, filed a 17F Order for reports and other documents related to Baker’s 1993 conviction of possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

“It’s absurd to believe that a closed matter that didn’t even lead to charges being filed is relevant to whether or not you’re fit to serve in elected office, especially since one of the main tenets of our country is innocent until proven guilty,” Lara said in a statement to Twitter.

“Even more surprising is that, to my knowledge, Councilor Baker is the only one of my colleagues ever to be convicted of a crime,” she continued. “So if he thinks the documents he’s requesting are relevant, he must also think that documents related to his conviction for possession with intent to distribute are pertinent and should be considered by the City Council.”

Baker’s conviction nearly three decades ago followed a grand jury indictment based on his arrest for possessing what police said were three “large bags of marijuana” and an undisclosed amount of cash, according to the Globe.

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Baker, when he first ran for his council seat in 2011, denied to the newspaper though that he ever sold marijuana.

On the campaign trail that year, Baker recalled his conviction to the Dorchester Reporter and how he used his conviction to ultimately turn his life around with support of family and friends while he was out on probation.

“People should be looking at who is standing in front of them now, not a 25-year-old kid,’’ Baker told the Globe that fall. “I wouldn’t have been voting for myself when I was 25.’’

Lara’s request seeks many of the same kinds of documents as Baker’s request regarding Arroyo and, in some sections, nearly quotes Baker’s filing verbatim: “It is essential in the interest of transparency that the City Council has the necessary information to ensure the integrity of the body and the fitness of its members to serve in chairmanship positions.”

Baker17f by Christopher Gavin on Scribd

Flynn has temporarily stripped Arroyo from his committee assignments. Arroyo called the move ‘undemocratic.’

In a letter to the city clerk on Monday, Flynn wrote that he opted to re-adjust committee assignments for the time being, but did not mention Arroyo or the ongoing controversy.

“In what I believe to be in the best interest of the Boston City Council as a legislative body, I have decided to temporarily readjust committee assignments for the next sixty days,” Flynn wrote. “At that time, I will reassess this decision with all available information.”

Flynn declined to elaborate on the decision to the Globe on Monday.

But in a statement to the newspaper reacting to Flynn’s move, Arroyo swiftly decried the decision.

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“There are no grounds for my removal from any of my committees,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo went on to say that what Flynn is doing is “undemocratic and is a clear attempt to impact redistricting.”

“Maps are due by the start of November, sixty days away, and this is nothing more than a blatant attempt to hinder my mission as Chair to create more diverse and inclusive districts citywide,” Arroyo said. “These actions would be detrimental to the city and to the integrity of the Boston City Council.”

In a similar statement, Lara also asserted “this is not about Councilor Arroyo.”

“This is an attempt to turn back the clock and avoid having to represent districts that are as diverse as the City,” Lara wrote in a tweet.

Lara has been a steadfast supporter of Arroyo in the race, even despite last week’s report, along with her colleague Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, who also blasted Baker and Flynn on Twitter Monday.

“If we start acting as if we are guilty until proven innocent, we will endanger the purpose of the body, and create a witch hunt mentality that will hurt the people of this Commonwealth,” she wrote in a tweet.

Last week, Councilor Erin Murphy, meanwhile, called on Arroyo to drop out of the district attorney’s race and resign from his council seat.

Arroyo said he would neither resign nor drop out.

All three council matters are on the docket for the group’s Wednesday meeting at noon.

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