MAYOR’S OUSTER EYED
Fall River council plans hearing after Correia indicted
A group of Fall River city councilors plans to push for indicted Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II’s removal at a special hearing Tuesday — an ouster they can legally force if they can muster seven votes against him.
“There is an immediate lack of trust because of his business dealings. There is this cloud hanging over him whether the allegations prove to be true or not. The focus will always be on that. I don’t know how he can focus on both his mayoral duties, running this city and this federal case,” said Pam Laliberte-Lebeau, a Fall River city councilor. “This is a black mark on the city that we don’t need.”
Correia is charged with nine counts of fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns connected to a company he founded. Federal prosecutors say Correia used hundreds of thousands of dollars in investor money to fund a lavish lifestyle.
Cliff Ponte, president of the Fall River City Council, said yesterday the ninemember body will meet Tuesday night to discuss the federal fraud charges against Correia, as well as take up any motions “regarding the leadership of our city.”
Under Fall River’s charter, the council can remove a mayor who is “unable to perform the duties of the office” with at least seven votes. It is unclear whether those who seek to push Correia out of office will be able to get enough votes. Of the six councilors who responded to Herald inquiries, three said they would vote to remove him.
“It’s time for the city council to step up and lead. I am certain he will not resign voluntarily, but it would alleviate the issues facing Fall River,” said Councilor Bradford Kilby, who said he would vote to remove Correia. “I’ve received numerous emails and calls for him to step down. It’s very unfortunate, and I take no pride in this happening. It’s a sad situation and gives the city two black eyes and a broken nose.”
Ponte, who would become acting mayor if Correia resigns or is removed, did not say how he would vote.
Correia did not respond to a request for comment but said Thursday after his arraignment he would not resign and maintained his innocence.
Meanwhile, a growing number of top state elected officials said Correia should either resign or step aside while the investigation runs its course.
“Mayor Correia should step down and allow the City of Fall River to move past this difficult time,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III said in a statement. Kennedy, who represents Fall River, chose the city as the venue for his State of the Union rebuttal earlier this year.
Gov. Charlie Baker and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey both said Correia should at least step aside while the investigation is ongoing.
“I think the best thing to do would be for the mayor to step aside, deal with this issue, wherever it goes, and give the city a chance to operate out from under that,” Baker said. “I certainly think it would be in the best interest of the city for him to step aside as this issue plays itself out.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez also called for Correia to resign.
‘STEP ASIDE’: Gov. Charlie Baker, left, says indicted Fall River Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II, above, should step aside. Below, the USS Massachusetts in Fall River’s Battleship Cove.