The recent emergence of years-old sexual assault allegations against Ricardo Arroyo has not only roiled his campaign for Suffolk district attorney, it is sparking upheaval, and the drawing of battle lines, within the Boston City Council where he currently serves.
Council President Ed Flynn sparked fresh drama Monday, stripping Arroyo of his council vice presidency and a pair of key committee chairmanships, according to documents filed with the city clerk’s office.
The changes drew protest from Arroyo, who accused his council colleague of trying to meddle in the city’s redistricting process, which Arroyo had been overseeing. “There are no grounds for my removal from any of my committees,” Arroyo said in a statement reacting to Flynn’s action.
Flynn’s move followed his earlier decision to rescind his endorsement of Arroyo in the Suffolk district attorney’s race last week, after a Boston Globe report revealed Arroyo was twice investigated — though never charged — for possible sexual assault as a teenager. Arroyo has denied he ever assaulted anyone.
In a Monday letter to the city clerk, Flynn said his decision to remove Arroyo from his leadership positions is “what I believe to be in the best interest of the Boston City Council as a legislative body.” Flynn said he has “decided to temporarily readjust committee assignments” and would “reassess” the decision at the end of 60 days.
Attached to his letter was a listing of all council committee assignments, showing that Arroyo is no longer chair of the committee on government operations, which examines proposed laws that affect city departments, commissions, and agencies; he also is no longer listed as the vice chair of the whole council. Arroyo also was stripped of his chairmanship of the council’s redistricting committee.
In a text to a Globe reporter on Monday, Flynn declined to expound upon his letter. Whether the move will bring delays to some important pieces of council business remains to be seen. Arroyo leads the committees in charge not only of the council redistricting process, but also a proposal to give pay raises to a number of top city employees.
“What Ed Flynn is doing is undemocratic and is a clear attempt to impact redistricting,” Arroyo charged in his statement.
“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. These actions would be detrimental to the city and to the integrity of the Boston City Council.”
Flynn’s letter comes days after news broke that City Councilor Frank Baker, a Dorchester resident who is sometimes the lone dissenting, conservative voice on a council that has leaned increasingly left in recent years, is demanding documents from city authorities related to the Arroyo scandal. Baker’s request to Mayor Michelle Wu seeks all relevant police reports, school safety reports, documents from the police Sexual Assault Unit, restraining or stay-away orders, victim statements, and communications between Boston Public Schools, police, the Arroyo family, and their representatives.
Meanwhile, Arroyo’s supporters on the council have rallied to his defense in various ways.
In a tit-for-tat move, Councilor Kendra Lara, a Jamaica Plain progressive who has stood by her endorsement of Arroyo, is now demanding documents related to a 1990s drug conviction of Baker, in which he pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute for what police described as three “large bags of marijuana’' and an unspecified amount of cash. In the past, Baker has denied ever selling marijuana.
In a filing with the city clerk’s office, Lara said she wants officials to produce any police reports related to that case, as well as school safety reports, drug unit documents, restraining orders, victim statements, copies of communication between Baker’s family and authorities, and human resources documents relating to Baker.
“If he thinks the documents [about Arroyo] 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,” said Lara in a statement.
Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, who is also supporting Arroyo, took exception to Baker and Flynn’s actions, calling for Flynn’s decision to be reversed on Twitter.
“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 said in a tweet.
The Globe reported last week that police reports show Arroyo, 34, of Hyde Park, was investigated over possible sexual assaults when he was 18 and 19. Boston police and the district attorney’s office investigated both sets of claims, and closed each after several months without charges, officials said.
Regarding Baker’s order, Arroyo, known as a progressive police reform advocate during his time on the council, said Friday he had already requested the files from police, “with redactions to protect the privacy of the complainants, and I fully support this effort as well.”
Any response to 17f requests, as both Lara and Baker’s proposals are known, would become part of the public record. On the council floor, councilors rarely object to their colleagues’ 17f requests.
The allegations against Arroyo have rocked local politics, just days before Arroyo is set to face Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden on primary day. (Hayden is embroiled in a scandal of his own, as he continues to face questions and criticism after a Globe investigation exposed a coverup by Transit Police officers that raised questions about how prosecutors handled the case.)
Some major endorsers of Arroyo, like Flynn and former US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, have withdrawn their support in the wake of the Globe’s report last week. Other endorsers, like Lara, have doubled down.
Representative Ayanna Pressley of Boston, for one, dodged a question about her backing of Arroyo over the weekend.
“I think there’s a lot we’re still learning about that,” Pressley told reporters after an early voting campaign event in Dorchester on Saturday, where she rallied behind gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Maura Healey and attorney general hopeful Andrea Campbell. “Today, I’m here to talk about this justice seeker on the ballot, and why we need her in this moment,” she said, “I’m gonna go vote.”
She abruptly ended the media availability, walking away from Healey, Campbell, and a group of reporters and into a large crowd gathered outside the Salvation Army’s Kroc Community Center.
Meanwhile, Politico reported Wu has now said definitively she is not withdrawing her endorsement of Arroyo. “As documented in the news, these cases were closed after investigation by the Boston Police Department and the DA’s office,” Wu told the outlet.
In a lengthy e-mail on Friday, JP Progressives said its members “are deeply concerned about the allegations in both cases and in no way want to diminish the seriousness of the situation.” But ultimately, the group decided to continue backing Arroyo.
“In this case, voting is also (some would argue is ONLY) a harm reduction strategy,” read the e-mail. “As such, we believe that despite all the confusion, uncertainty, and changing circumstances, Ricardo Arroyo is still the better choice for Suffolk County District Attorney based on policy differences. Councilor Arroyo has committed to following the path of reform we started down with DA Rollins, and we do not want to see any further rollback of that vision and its accompanying policies.”
Emma Platoff and Samantha J. Gross of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Danny McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.