FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — A day after he was temporarily ousted by the Fall River City Council, embattled Mayor Jasiel Correia announced Wednesday he would not be leaving his post.
The City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday night to temporarily remove Correia from office as he faces federal extortion charges; Correia argues the council does not have the legal standing to remove him.
“We should never suggest that they — eight individuals — can deem that I can’t perform my duties as mayor,” Correia told reporters on the sixth floor of Government Center. He contends that the vote was a “great political stunt.”
Correia argues he is still able to perform his duties as mayor and the council is misconstruing the section of the city charter being utilized to oust him.
“The section they’re referring to talks about sickness, it talks about an inability to do the duties as mayor, and that is not the case,” Correia said.
The vote came one week before Correia is set to face two opponents – Paul Coogan and Erica Scott-Pacheco – in the city’s Sept. 17 preliminary election for mayor. The top two candidates will move on to the general election Nov. 5.
Correia, 27, was arrested Friday for the second time in less than a year. He is accused of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana vendors and has denied all of the charges against him.
City Council President Cliff Ponte asked Correia to step down by Friday. Ponte would then take over Correia’s duties as acting mayor.
“I’m not going to be upstairs at 5:01 on Friday,” Ponte said. “I’m not going to be upstairs at 8:30 on Monday, either. There’s going to be a process by which this is going to play out.”
Ponte said the council has engaged the services of a Boston-based law firm and said he and his fellow members will see what their lawyer advises them to do. He said it’s likely he will convene an emergency council meeting next week to determine their next steps.
“If they want to take it to court, they can take it to court,” Correia said, adding that taxpayers would have to cover the fees for both legal counsels.
Ponte said the money will come out of funds already budgeted for outside legal fees.
“We wouldn’t be seeking outside legal if the mayor would just step aside and resign from his duties as mayor,” Ponte said.
During his afternoon media briefing, Correia refused to discuss the new federal charges against him, but did take time to tout what he considers his accomplishments as mayor — including the removal of the controversial purple bag program — and argued the council has had “an axe to grind” with him since he was elected.
This is not the first time Correia has been federally charged.
Last year, Correia was arrested on federal fraud charges connected to his startup SnoOwl, which is now defunct. His trial on those charges had been scheduled to start in February prior to his latest indictment.
“We have department heads in this building who are very concerned about the welfare of this community,” Ponte said. “About where we’re going today, if they’re going to have a job, if they have retribution coming after them.”
“And we have a mayor holding a press conference speaking about the same exact issues he was speaking about on Friday, and on Monday, and yesterday and now today, and he’s actually not doing the work of the people holding a press conference sitting there and berating city councilors,” Ponte continued. “That’s a shame. That puts into question integrity.”