It was not an easy decision for any of the city councillors. City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo had wrestled with expelling a mentor and a friend since the day he knew it could occur.
But by an 11 to 1 vote on Wednesday, Councillor Chuck Turner was removed from the 13-member City Council after an emotional hearing at City Hall's Iannella Chamber. It was the first time in the council's history that a member was removed.
Only Dorchester's Charles Yancey —- who repeatedly challenged the authority of the council to take the vote on Wednesday and whether it could expel a member -— voted against Turner's removal, which will be effective Dec. 3. Turner was unanimously convicted by a jury last month of accepting a $1,000 bribe and lying to FBI agents about it.
Turner called the council's vote, like he did the jury's verdict, a "grievous error."
"I didn't come to a definitive decision until late last night," Arroyo said in a brief interview in his office an hour after the vote.
"I would say what he was convicted of was contrary to the person I know," Arroyo added. But the question put to the council was not whether he was guilty, Arroyo said, and instead was whether someone on the City Council convicted of corruption could continue to serve.
"I still respect him," Arroyo said. "I still love him."
He declined to say whether he had told Turner how he was going to vote, saying it was a private conversation. Arroyo and fellow City Councillor At-Large Ayanna Pressley met with Turner for several hours late yesterday.
He was on the verge of tears during the speech before his vote, noting that he won't get a chance to serve out his first term with his friend and former boss.
Pressley, who also teared up during her speech, said she was "deeply troubled" by the federal government's investigation. "The council does not have the authority to reverse the conviction or demand answers from the FBI," she said. "This is a terribly sad day."
Rep.-elect Carlos Henriquez, who twice ran against Turner before winning the Fifth Suffolk District seat this fall, said it was "solemn day."
"It took great courage for Ayanna and Felix to take the vote that they did and to stand up and say why," he said. "I think people are looking at it as a very political vote, and I know it's much more than that. I know it was very personal to them."
City Council President Michael Ross said their speeches "expressed the remorse we all feel." "I had always said this was not an easy vote but this was the right vote," he said.
"I just feel this is something we agreed to two years ago. We all knew what the ramifications would be," he said, referring to the City Council rules that were drafted after Turner's indictment.
Staffers in Turner's office will remain in place, Ross said, to field constituent services.
Newcomer Matt O'Malley, who had been sworn in as the councillor for District 6 just 30 hours before the hearing, had to vote to expel a colleague on his first full day on the job. "He committed a very serious breach of the public trust," O'Malley said.
The votes of Pressley and Arroyo drew the strongest reaction from the crowd of Turner supporters, who hurled insults at Pressley while she was speaking and after the vote, started to chant, "Shame on you" and "unjust."
Turner attempted to quiet them, saying, "This is not the place to express our feelings. They have spoken, we will have the opportunity to speak in November."
Allowed to speak in his defense at the hearing, Turner offered up a stemwinder similar to previous speeches in which he maintained his innocence, made historical allusions, and aimed vitriol at federal prosecutors. "It was purely political," he said of the corruption charges.
Mayor Thomas Menino said in a statement issued after the vote that he supported the City Council's decision. "Councilor Turner has represented the people of his district well for over a decade, but he has been convicted of a federal crime by a jury of his peers in a court of law," he said. "As elected officials, the public’s trust and confidence is of the utmost importance, and we must hold ourselves and our actions to a higher standard. We will continue to promote a spirit of trust and accountability among all employees and leaders across the City of Boston."
On the radio this morning, Gov. Deval Patrick declined to weigh in, saying whether Turner should be ousted is up to the City Council.
Turner is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 25. Turner had asked councillors to hold off on removing him until then, expressing hope that he would be put on probation instead of sent to jail.
Turner's seat will be declared vacant and councillors are expected to schedule a special election early next year. Turner has said he is not running for another term.
See Joe Rowland's report from Thursday's Neighborhood Network News: