Monday, November 01, 2010

Disgrace That Does Not Recognize Itself

King John was not a good man
He had his little ways
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.

Thus, A.A. Milne described a royal lout in King John's Christmas. That fits and does not fit Charles A. Turner, beloved City Councilor, tedious bombast deliverer, and recent convicted felon.

Chuck Turner displays the best and worst of Boston. He has an empathy and love for his constituents that has led him to better the lives of many. He often though goes far, far beyond facts, reason and civility to claim racism, intellectual deficiency, and conspiracy against anyone who questions his assertions. Best and worst...

So now, Turner faces first a 12/1 expulsion hearing by his Councilor peers and an 1/25 sentencing on four crimes. For the latter, the ink on the paper says up to 35 years, 20 for conspiring to receive a $1,000 bribe to facilitate a liquor license, and 5 each on three counts of lying to FBI agents about that.

For his part, Turner left court saying he is innocent and outlines his next steps on his website. Oddly and unfortunately for those of us in the real world, he never said that in two days on the witness stand during his trial. He was big on polemic — something about persecution as a black man — and really huge on not remembering anything, even when confronted with video that to everyone else seemed to show him taking some cash from an FBI informant.

He tells his many supporters there as he did in a post conviction rally that he'll fight. On his site, he urges them to write to judge asking for no prison time and to City Council President Mike Ross to delay the hearing until after the sentencing.

Ross is a super guy, without the polemics. He doesn't seem to have much choice under Council Rule 40A. His latitude is giving Turner the choice in an open or closed session. Otherwise, the key provisions are:

The council president shall automatically refer a matter to the council upon a felony conviction of any member by any state or federal court.

Any action by the council taken in response to any referral shall require a two-thirds (2/3) majority roll call vote and will be in accordance with local, state and federal law.

There is an 11/16 special election to fill the District 6 seat vacated recently. Ross wants the JP/WR Councilor there for that. However, there seems no reason to acquiesce to Turner's call to hold off until his sentencing. The rule is that if you are convicted felon, the hearing is mandatory and it's up or down on 9 members of 13.

By the bye, even though Turner is 70, no one seems to see how this can go for probation with no jail time on four felony counts.

Turner didn't help his call by saying he won't appeal his conviction. The Councilors who'd like to pretend he might continue to serve while somehow finding the time and energy to also wage an appeal for a lost cause have no hook for their tattered coats.

Even those of us who long tired of this pol who cried RACISM! daily are sad to see it come to to this. Several other Council members are aces at constituent services and clearly seeing big economic, policy and cultural issues that affect plain folk in Boston. Turner is certainly among that group.

He's also quite dogmatic and often flips race and victim cards at the slightest provocation. I think psychologists might say he has a limited executive function of his brain. I recall in that vein his performance at a LaRouche gathering last year.

To be sure, Boston from its slave-trade days to the current segregated neighborhoods and schools (you are free to debate how self-selecting those are) has long been a pretty racist town. Alas for Turner's case, that is not the get-out-of-jail-free card or end to all criticism.

Numerous blog posts and newspaper comments note the seeming unfairness of the latest two guilty findings being of Turner and ex-state Senator Dianne Wilkerson, both black, when surely, surely crooked white pols are just as dirty. Others are as quick to point out that we have an almost continuous history of disgraced and convicted former high ranking white pols, including speakers of the House (with the latest, Sal DiMasi, coming to trial soon for corruption).

Unfortunately for Turner, he has overplayed the racism hand here too many times. If he were a greedy, self-enriching jerk, we could disdain him easily. Instead, as he and many note, he does not have money, drives a junk heap (flivver as my granddad used to say), and if he took money it surely was to stay in office to help his District 7 people.

We know that story well from the history of the rascal king, Boston's picaresque hero, James Michael Curley. We re-elected him alderman (yesterday's equivalent of Councilor) while he was in prison for fraud. In his long career though the range of our political offices, he apparently took much money, but always funneling it to his constituents. He did it even better than Turner, but there is quite a similarity.

Turner has the world's silliest beard and can't stop calling persecution with the least or no cause. Yet, his goals have long been noble.

His last gasp in town seems intended to make people, particularly Ross and others squirm. They, and we, all know what a good Councilor he has been, regardless of his rhetoric.

Now we can go to the should-haves, as the Councilors surely will on 12/1. He should have told the informant to take a hike or that he could not accept a contribution over $200. He should have accounted for any money he got. Coulda, shoulda, woulda...

Making his peers toss him from the body does not diminish them, but him. He leaves a long legacy of beneficence and bluster


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