fb-pixel

Fall River’s controversial mayor delivers his State of the City address

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia delivered his State of the City address Tuesday night.
Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia delivered his State of the City address Tuesday night.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

FALL RIVER — Last week, Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II was recalled from office and then reelected in a special election organized after a federal grand jury had indicted him for fraud and tax evasion.

On Tuesday, he presided at a joint meeting of the City Council and School Committee and delivered his annual State of the City address without ever directly mentioning the improbable vote tally that let him hold onto power. Earlier in the day, 10 voters who participated in the recall had filed a lawsuit seeking to block the certification of the results and declare that Correia was ineligible to run for reelection.

Advertisement



“I know we have not always gotten along, and I know that some of you are not happy with the recent developments, but for the good of the city and adhering to your oath, please put differences aside to get even more great things done for the citizens of our great city,” Correia, 27, a Democrat, said near the end of his 26-minute speech.

Under the city charter, Correia had to deliver the speech before the third Wednesday in March.

In it, he cited his efforts to expand services, push economic development, and cut fees.

Since he took office in 2016, Correia said, city reserves have grown by millions of dollars and the credit rating agency Moody’s has reversed its outlook on Fall River from negative to positive.

Correia said he plans to generate new revenue through solar development, billboard fees, and electronic advertising and pledged to support economic development on Fall River’s waterfront.

The audience gave Correia a warm reception. The crowd rose to its feet to applaud a 31-year-old man in the chamber whom Correia singled out for being in recovery from drug use.

Russell Desbiens, 47, who volunteered on Correia’s campaign, said the mayor is the best Fall River has ever seen. He praised Correia’s State of the City address. “It was great. Super. The whole nine yards,” he said.

Advertisement



Some of Correia’s opponents left the chamber during his speech. Among them was City Councilor Shawn Cadime, who said Correia manipulates information.

“I, for one, won’t be listening to the rhetoric anymore,” Cadime said.

Following his remarks, Correia refused to speak with reporters, who peppered him with questions about the lawsuit and recall election.

He spent several minutes hugging supporters and then walked away from reporters in the company of an aide and a police officer.

The new lawsuit against Correia and other city officials alleges the ballot used in the special election violated the city charter. The ballot asked two questions: whether to recall Correia and whom to elect as mayor.

Five candidates ran, including Correia, who was listed as a candidate for reelection.

The lawsuit alleges Correia should not have been allowed to run for reelection.

“The people spoke, and they wanted him recalled for various reasons,” said Erik Tolley, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, filed in Bristol Superior Court in New Bedford. “We want to make sure the letter of the law was followed. We don’t believe it was followed by having him in two places on the ballot.”

The plaintiffs planned to file court papers on Wednesday, seeking to stop city officials from certifying the election results, Tolley said.

More than 60 percent of the voters recalled Correia, with 7,829 in favor of the recall and 4,911 against.

Advertisement



Correia then prevailed in the five-way race for the city’s top job. Also running for mayor were School Committee member Paul Coogan, longtime City Councilor Joseph D. Camara, school administrator Kyle Riley, and Erica Scott-Pacheco, director of development at a legal services nonprofit.

Correia garnered 4,808 votes, or about 35 percent of the total. Coogan received 4,567 votes, or 33 percent. Camara finished behind Coogan with 1,971 votes, followed by Riley with 1,460 votes and then Scott-Pacheco, who collected 740 votes.

Fall River’s corporation counsel, Joseph Macy, said the city “will have an appropriate response at an appropriate time.”

Correia faces another challenge to his authority from Cadime.

Last Thursday, Cadime requested that the City Council convene a special meeting to vote on a proposal to remove Correia from office on the grounds he is unfit.

In making his request, Cadime cited Correia’s decision to remove two political rivals, Coogan and School Committee member Mark Costa, from a committee overseeing the construction of BMC Durfee High School.

Correia removed Coogan and Costa from the panel last Wednesday, a day after he was recalled and reelected, Cadime’s letter said.

City Council President Cliff Ponte said he has no immediate plans to schedule a vote on Cadime’s request. He said he plans to track the lawsuit challenging the special election.

In November, an attempt by the City Council to remove Correia from office while the criminal case against him was pending failed by a vote of 5 to 4, though councilors overwhelmingly approved a no-confidence vote and requested his resignation. Correia refused to step down.

Advertisement



Correia’s term expires at the end of the year. The city holds a mayoral primary in September and a general election in November.

A status conference in Correia’s criminal case is scheduled for next month. He has pleaded not guilty.

On Oct. 11, FBI agents arrested Correia on charges that he defrauded investors who supported the technology company SnoOwl and then attempted to conceal the scheme by filing false tax returns. The startup, which Correia established while he was an undergraduate at Providence College, developed a smartphone app to connect businesses and consumers.

Federal prosecutors allege Correia spent more than $231,000 that investors gave him for SnoOwl on expensive travel, casinos, adult entertainment, and a luxury car.


Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com.