Ross suspends Feeney's fact-finder, sets course for 2009

New City Council President Michael Ross, citing the economy and a gag-order motion filed by prosecuting attorneys in Councillor Chuck Turner's bribery case, halted an council investigation into Turner's fitness to serve on Tuesday.

Federal investigators moved to limit to public documents what the $500-an-hour fact finder, former Chief Magistrate Charles B. Swartwood III, could access.

But a rule change also enacted by Ross would enable the council to penalize and even eject Turner from the body by a two-thirds majority vote.

"It's definitely something that will allow the council to have a course of action," said Ross spokeswoman Amy Derjue. "The council president can call for it, and it's automatic in the case of a felony. [The penalty] can be anything from a slap on the wrist to being evicted from the council."

Ross also decreed that ethics training be made available to councillors, minutes for all hearings, meetings, and working sessions be recorded and made public, and all city council dockets be posted to the city's web page.

In his layout of the council's committees, Ross cut from 19 to 12 the total number of standing committees, and created two special committees. Conveniently, each councillor chairs one standing committee, although Councillor John Connolly continues as the acting chair of the Education Committee in Turner's absence, and both Connolly and Feeney chair one special committee each.

Connolly heads the Special Committee on a Livable Boston, and Feeney the Special Committee on the Council Centennial.

Notable for the upcoming mayoral race, potential candidate Councillor Michael Flaherty is now chairing the Committee on Youth Affairs, which was Councillor Sam Yoon's territory last year (Ross served as vice-chair). And Yoon remains chair of the Committee on Post Audit and Oversight.