Judge to determine if Fall River City Council can temporarily oust embattled mayor

SE Mass

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — The ongoing legal battle between the Fall River City Council and embattled Mayor Jasiel Correia continued Thursday as both sides made their cases before a judge.

Laura Goldberg, a lawyer for the council, argued that the city’s reputation is at risk the longer Correia — who in September was arrested for the second time in less than a year on federal fraud charges — stays in office.

The City Council voted 8-1 last month to temporarily remove Correia, who is accused of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana vendors who wanted to set up shop in Fall River.

City Council President Cliff Ponte urged Correia to resign from office following the vote, declaring he would be taking over as acting mayor.

Correia, who has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him, refuses to step down and is arguing that the vote to remove him was illegal.

The legality of the vote boils down to language in the Fall River City Charter which states a mayor can be removed from office due to “sickness or other cause.”

Correia attended Thursday’s hearing at New Bedford Superior Court and watched as lawyers argued over the legality of the vote.

Goldberg said Correia is unable to perform his duties as mayor due to the travel restrictions placed under his bail conditions.

A judge will now decide whether or not the City Council’s vote can be upheld and what the “other cause” is.

Goldberg argued that the Charter Commission did not want to limit the reasons why a mayor could be temporarily removed from office.

“It’s meant to broad and it’s meant to be at the discretion of the council,” he said. “In this case, the council did determine there was an ‘other cause.'”

The judge responded by saying he is still concerned about the charter’s “broad definition.” He did not make a decision during Thursday’s hearing, and a date for his ruling has not yet been set.

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