FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Candidates for a recall election in Fall River took to the stage for the first time Thursday night, challenging Mayor Jasiel Correia for his post.
Correia, 27, was arrested last October by federal authorities on more than a dozen counts of wire fraud and filing false tax returns. Prosecutors allege he misused $231,000 of the $363,000 he accepted from seven investors into SnoOwl, the app company he founded in 2012, while misleading them about the business. The mayor has repeatedly denied all the charges against him.
Four candidates are challenging Correia in the recall election, including Councilman Joe Camara, School Committee member Paul Coogan, school administrator Kyle Riley and Director of Development for the South Coastal Legal Services Erica Scott-Pacheco.
Some candidates began by directly addressing the allegations against Correia.
“I cannot stand idly by as Fall River’s reputation is tarnished on a national stage,” Camara said in his opening statement. “Despite what the mayor wants you to believe, the charges against him are serious and he has a long road ahead of him.”
Coogan said the City of Fall River can trust him because he has never had “a bad write up.”
“I’ve focused my entire campaign on honesty, integrity, the hallmarks of things you need to be successful,” Coogan said. “I do not for one minute believe the people on this stage have the education, the experience, the work history or the personal skills that I do….I think by working with people, listening to people and getting things done, you exhibit a type of integrity and honesty that the citizens of this city respect.”
Correia said citizens should still trust him because he has fulfilled his campaign promises from when he was first elected.
“I have fulfilled my promises,” Correia said in his opening statement, mentioning that he eliminated the
“pay as you throw” purple bag program. “I am asking for more time to continue to show you what other fees we want to eliminate, what other things we want to do in our community.”
Correia also maintained his innocence in regards to the charges against him, telling the citizens of Fall River should continue to support him despite those allegations.
“I can’t control that I was accused of something in my youth that I will be vindicated of,” Correia said. “I ruffled some feathers, it came back to bite me and I’m going to beat that and I hope you’ll be there with me.”
“The waters have never been so rough,” Riley added later in the debate. “There are 13 indictments hanging over the mayor’s head and frankly, it’s hanging over our heads as well….The office of mayor has to be about integrity and stability, it’s what people look for within our city limits.”
Scott-Pacheco said she will continue work hard for the citizens of Fall River and not only keep her campaign promises but ensure they’re completed in a timely manner.
“Hard work is not just a noun, it’s a verb,” Scott-Pacheo said. “I’m running for mayor because I live here, I work here and I have chosen to invest here, like so many of you….My concrete plans are for you, and they are not trump cards. I will not pull out a campaign promise at the 11th hour I will do it from the get-go because it is the right thing to do.”
The debate was hosted by The Herald News. Several topics were discussed during the debate, including how to stop increased street crime, how to improve school attendance and ideas to raise revenue for the city.
The special election is slated for March 12.
Watch the entire debate below, which took place at Morton Middle School. (Live-streamed by Fall River Government Television)