FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia has fulfilled his promise to trash the controversial “pay as you throw” purple bag program, six weeks prior to a scheduled recall election.
Following Correia’s announcement, supporters erupted into applause. The embattled mayor said the program is officially canceled and city residents no longer need to use the city-issued purple trash bags.
“I think people are going to be celebrating in the streets with this announcement and it has been a long time coming,” Correia said.
Correia said the move is being made now because the city is in a financially stable spot to do so. However, City Council President Cliff Ponte believes the timing of Correia’s announcement is political.
“I think there’s a political reason that the mayor is eliminating a program a couple weeks before his own election,” Ponte said.
Correia, 27, was arrested by federal authorities in October 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 in SnowOwl, the app company he founded in 2012, while misleading investors about the business.
The mayor has repeatedly denied the allegations.
A group seeking to oust Correia submitted petitions for a recall election last month. Once enough signatures were confirmed by the Board of Elections and Correia declined to resign, the special election was scheduled for March 12.
Paul Coogan is one of the candidates running against Correia in the recall election. He said he’s also suspicious of the announcement’s timing.
“I think any announcements he makes from now to the election are all questionable,” Coogan said. “He had over 500 days to do this and he could have done it any way along the way. But he chose now, which is obviously his right as the mayor. I’m not questioning it, but it does make people think twice.”
Correia called the announcement a “very special” one, but stressed that the elimination of the purple bag program was not political.
“The fact of the matter is that every single resident and business that buys purple bags today will no longer have to do that,” Correia said. “So if it’s political and people want to say it’s political and it is, it certainly can be viewed that way, but guess what? The public’s getting a big benefit by this move, so we’re really happy to do that.”