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No-show city boards with paid members about to get the boot

Target 12

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — The members of two Fall River boards each make $1,500 annually but there are virtually no records of them meeting in recent years.

The Board of Police and Fire Commission members are appointed by the mayor, and while the total taxpayer expense of $9,000 for the three people on each board is swallowed by the city’s overall budget, Mayor Paul Coogan pointed out that amount could cover the annual property taxes of about three homes.

Coogan said the last time the fire commission met was in 2014.

The police commissioners, who are also given a smaller version of the department badge, would probably meet at the police station if they ever met, according to city officials.

But after a public records request for minutes and agendas, Fall River City Clerk Alison Bouchard said, “My office has no record of minutes of meetings of the Board, and no additional contact information for members.”

“I would suggest that you contact the Police Department for that information,” Bouchard wrote in an email.

Deputy Chief of Police Alpert Dupere said he was not concerned about police board members flashing their badges to gain influence.

He acknowledged he did not know when the board had last met but said its members have from time to time offered advice about police recruits.

“These aren’t people they just pick off the street randomly,” Dupere said. “The mayor appoints them. We do a background check on them.”

The background of board member Daniel Reitzas includes a 2012 guilty plea for failing to pay his Fall River company’s unemployment taxes for five years.

Dupere said the city also knew board member Peter Cabral was arrested in a 1999 drug case. Court records obtained by Target 12 alleged he was one of 25 suspects in an ecstasy bust in New York.

The federal charge against Cabral was dismissed three months later, according to court records.

Neither Reitzas nor Cabral would comment about the board of police.

Cabral referred us to his attorney, Matthew Burke, who would not offer any details about the dismissed case, but he did emphasize that Cabral has since become a successful, law-abiding businessman.

“The mayor obviously appointed Mr. Cabral because he wanted his support whether it be financial or otherwise,” Burke said in an email. “Just like they do with all other board appointments.”

Former Mayor Jasiel Correia appointed Reitzas and Cabral and records indicate both men have contributed to Correia’s campaign account over the years. Reitzas gave nearly $1,000 from 2015 to 2017, and Cabral gave just under $3,000 from 2015 to 2018.

Correia is now awaiting trial on federal bribery and extortion charges.

Mayor Coogan was not concerned about the Reitzas’ and Cabral’s pasts, saying everyone deserves a second chance.

But he has decided to propose eliminating the two boards.

“I know government spends money that people wouldn’t spend that way,” Coogan said. “But we’re not just throwing it in the trash can. This $9,000 doesn’t buy us anything.”

Coogan believes he has the City Council’s support for an ordinance to eliminate the two boards, but the final change to the city charter would require approval by the Massachusetts legislature.

He is not sure how long it would take to make the change but added that he hopes it can be done before the board members are paid again.

In the Fall River city charter, there is a reference indicating the Board of Police was around as far back as 1894.

Dupere, who resigned as Fall River’s police chief after a Target 12 undercover investigation showed him drinking at a pub on Friday afternoons and then driving away in a city-owned vehicle, said the board used to choose the city’s police chief.

According to Dupere, when the chief position became a contract job in the 1980s, the board was no longer involved in the selection process and “became advisory in nature.”

There is no reference to Board of Fire Commissioners in the charter.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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