FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — The Fall River City Council voted to temporarily oust embattled Mayor Jasiel Correia from office as he faces federal extortion charges.
The emergency measure was approved by the council 8-1. Councilman Steven Camara was the only one to vote no, arguing the council did not have the authority to remove Correia from office.
Council President Cliff Ponte will temporarily replace Correia as acting mayor.
“He’s not going to be using the office of mayor for personal gain anymore,” Ponte said.
Correia was arrested for the second time in less than a year last week. He is accused of abusing his power as mayor by extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana vendors.
Ponte asked Correia, 27, to temporarily step down by Friday.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen in my political life,” Councilman Leo Pelletier said during the meeting. “We’re talking Buddy Cianci – he was a priest next to this guy.”
The move comes one week before Correia is set to face his opponents – Paul Coogan and Erica Scott-Pacheco – during the city’s preliminary election on Sept. 17. Two of the three candidates will move on to the general election Nov. 5.
Scott-Pacheco tells Eyewitness News in a statement she believes the council made the right decision for the city.
“We need a mayor who is 100% focused on leading our city and not fighting his own legal battles,” she said. “I’m looking forward to Tuesday’s election and making my case to the voters that now is the time for accountable and transparent leadership.”
This is not the first time Correia has been federally charged during his time as mayor.
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 Friday’s new indictment.
Correia has denied all of the charges he is facing.
Eyewitness News spoke with Correia ahead of Tuesday night’s council meeting.
“I will have my day in court,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I need to leave my job. That doesn’t mean that I have to give up.”