Reporter’s Notebook: Costly Turner case payout spurs Murphy into action

City Council President Stephen Murphy is attempting to close a “loophole” in state law that he says cost the city $106,000 in a settlement with former City Councillor Chuck Turner after the Supreme Judicial Court ruled last year that the Council did not have the power to toss Turner off the 13-member body. Only District 4 Councillor Charles Yancey voted against the Turner ouster, which was pushed by the council president at the time, Michael Ross.

The council’s vote came after Turner was convicted of taking a $1,000 bribe and lying to federal agents, but before he was sentenced to three years in prison. State law removes an elected official after he or she has been sentenced. An enraged Turner vowed to sue the city, saying the vote was illegal. The settlement, announced last week, divides the funds up among Turner, his attorney, and 15 Turner supporters who brought the complaint.

Under Murphy’s proposed home rule petition, the City Council would be given the authority to prevent convicted individuals from sitting on the council, suspend them without pay, and remove them from the body after a hearing.

“Serving in elective office requires public trust and a felony conviction violates that trust,” Murphy said in a statement. “This change will bring clarity to these issues moving forward. The change is necessary, although we hope to never have to use it. The Legislature needs to correct this inequity moving forward.”

Baker’s hybrid school panel plan will get a hearing on Thurs. Feb. 28
A hearing on District 3 Councillor Frank Baker’s proposal to change the School Committee from all-appointed to partially elected is scheduled for Thurs., Feb. 28, at City Hall. The Government Operations Committee session will start at 3 p.m.

Chatter about a hybrid school committee started several years ago in the wake of public dissatisfaction over a raft of school closures and Baker proposed his changes last month, saying they would bring more independence and accountability to the seven-member body. Under his proposal, which needs the approval of the mayor and lawmakers on Beacon Hill, four members of the committee would be appointed while three would be elected citywide.

Opponents of the proposal say the positions would become political steppingstones, and others point to strides the current school system has made under an appointed body. The city switched to the current model with support from voters.

Linehan to host this year’s St. Patrick’s Day breakfast

South Boston City Councillor Bill Linehan will take on hosting duties at the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast this year. The job has usually fallen to the state senator representing South Boston, but there will be a vacancy during the upcoming holiday due to former state Sen. Jack Hart leave-taking to join a law firm.

A special election to fill Hart’s seat is set for May 28, with a primary scheduled for April 30. The breakfast will also come in the middle of a US Senate race, with Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston), a former breakfast host, expected to be on the ballot.
Linehan could be facing his own election fight later this year: Suzanne Lee, who came close to toppling him in 2011, could be mounting another run. She has declined comment as she continues to fund-raise for a potential campaign.

The breakfast is set for March 17 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. New England Cable News will broadcast it live. The invite list will include Gov. Deval Patrick, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, among others.

Linehan said he expects to take a “special moment” in tribute to Hart. “I look forward to the opportunity to put a little Linehan stamp on the breakfast this year,” he added in a statement.

Grossman endorses political aide for rep seat, names a successor

State Treasurer Steve Grossman last week announced a new executive director for his political committee as he endorsed a former staffer for state representative.

Daniel Napolitano, 26, will head up the Grossman Committee after Joshua Dawson’s departure to run for the 8th Suffolk state representative. State Rep. Martha Walz, a Back Bay Democrat, is stepping down and taking a job with Planned Parenthood. A special election is set for June 25, with a primary scheduled for May 28.
Dawson, who chaired the Ward 5 Democratic Committee, had worked with Grossman since 2011. He is expected to face off in a Democratic primary against local attorney Jay Livingstone. “While the Grossman Committee regrets the loss of Josh Dawson as a colleague, political opportunities such as this come up infrequently, and I understand and support Josh’s desire to serve the public,” Grossman said in a statement.

Napolitano has served as a member of the Everett Common Council and a staffer for US Rep. John Tierney.

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