FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) –The Fall River City Council is scheduled to convene next week to discuss the criminal indictment of Mayor Jasiel Correia.
In a statement, City Council President Cliff Ponte told Eyewitness News the meeting would be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and councilors would discuss any motions made regarding the leadership of the city.
The meeting was prompted by a letter sent to Ponte by Councilman Shawn Cadime. In the letter, Cadime argued the council should be able to exercise its right to vote on whether the mayor is unable to perform his duties.
The council would need a supermajority, seven of nine votes, to declare the mayor unable to serve, according to the city charter. Cadime’s letter asserts that the council’s president would immediately be able to assume the role of acting mayor if the majority agrees Correia should step down.
“The role of acting mayor shall continue until such time as the federal criminal charges that have been brought against Jasiel F. Correia II have been resolved or concluded, or until the next scheduled city election where the voters of Fall River have the opportunity to exercise their vote for mayor,” he writes.
Laliberte-Lebeau said she plans to vote to declare Correia unfit to serve.
“I think that if I’m the mayor, and I really do love the city of Fall River, my family and my supporters, I would be stepping down … and stopping any further embarrassment,” she said Friday.
The developments come a day after Correia answered to charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns inside a Boston federal courthouse. Correia maintains his innocence, and said he will not resign.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who removed Correia’s endorsement from his re-election campaign website after news of his indictment broke Thursday, said the 26-year-old should resign.
“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,” he said.
Samuel Sutter, a former Bristol County district attorney, agreed with Baker. Sutter served as Fall River’s mayor for a brief time after Will Flanagan was recalled by voters; he then went on to lose to a 23-year-old Correia in 2015.
“I can tell you this: having defended cases in federal court, and having worked with the U.S. Attorney’s office when I was district attorney, they do not bring prosecutions lightly,” Sutter said of Correia’s indictment. He believes the case will be resolved within a year, in time for the city’s 2019 election.
“Would I love another chance to be mayor? Of course I would,” Sutter said when asked if he would seek the office again. “Whether next year is the year remains to be seen.”
On Friday, Correia was back at his office, though the door remained locked. He emerged once in the late morning, answering a few questions from reporters before getting into the elevator.
When asked about some city councilors’ desires to see him removed from office, Correia said with a smile, “Oh come on, the city council’s always talking.”
While many City Council members either did not return calls and emails seeking comment, or refused to say which way they’d vote, some did reveal where they stand ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.
City Councilman Steven Camara said he would not vote to remove Correia from office, saying he believes the mayor has the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
City Councilman Leo Pelletier said he would vote to declare Correia unfit to serve, and called on Correia to resign.
“How can he run the city of Fall River with all the problems that he has?” Pelletier said. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Council President Ponte, who would assume the role of acting mayor should Correia be forced to step aside, has not said how he would vote Tuesday night.
“My focus at this point is to ensure that the residents of the city of Fall River are protected and there isn’t a change in the business of government,” he said.
Steph Machado contributed to this report.