NEW BEDFORD - It was a packed house at Alfred J. Gomes Elementary on Monday night as candidates for Mayor, Councilor At-Large, Ward Four Councilor, and School Committee faced off in a public forum.

In anticipation of the upcoming final election, candidates seeking public office in New Bedford participated in the forum.

The two candidates for mayor, incumbent Mayor Jon Mitchell and challenger Charlie Perry, answered questions ranging from how they would continue or improve the city's economic development to lowering the crime rate. However, the question that drew the most noise from the crowd was Perry's allegations of racial and sexual harassment by Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro was brought up for discussion.

WBSM's Jim Phillips asked Perry if his accusations of Chief Cordeiro are true, based on the results of the investigation by MCAD and that nobody from the department has come forward in support of him.

“Of course it did. Why would I lie?” Perry said defiantly. “The whole process is under appeal, so that's all I can address right now. It's under appeal and it's going to be heard. I've been here for 30 years. I've been a law enforcement officer for 30 years. Not one single complaint that I've issued has ever been questioned or denied.”

Perry has refused to discuss his ongoing situation with the chief since posting a written statement to his campaign Facebook page in response to the reaction of the MCAD investigation, in which he further accused Cordeiro of racism and sexual harassment, including naming alleged victims. That Facebook post has since been deleted. Perry again refused discussing the matter further Monday night, citing his appeal of the ruling from the MCAD investigation of his complaint against Cordeiro.

Matthew Costa/Townsquare Media

Mayor Mitchell showed full support for Chief Cordeiro and credited his effectiveness in his leadership of the police department. Mitchell also says that he has yet to receive a complaint about Cordeiro from anybody.

“Nobody's came to me with a complaint about it, or to him for that matter. But as I said, he's an effective police chief. He's an upstanding guy, has an upstanding family and he has my full confidence and support in the job that he's doing right now,” Mitchell said.

Matthew Costa/Townsquare Media

Tensions rose again towards the end of the forum when the two candidates were discussing the School Department. A member of the audience who claims to have been teaching for New Bedford Public Schools for over 15 years, most recently as a seventh grade science teacher during the 2015-16 school year, asked Mitchell why he pulled his daughter out of Keith Middle School and enrolled her in Friends Academy, and referenced the mayor's praise of the direction the school system is moving in.

“When my kids get pulled into political campaigns I guess I can't let it lie, so let me address your question because of the folks here, even those who object to having children brought into political campaigns deserve an answer,” Mitchell said before responding to the personal question.

"I have three daughters, all currently students in the New Bedford Public Schools system, including one at Keith," Mitchell continued. "I wouldn't put my kids in the school system if I didn't think it served them well."

 

The mayor went on to explain that his three daughters are all currently enrolled in New Bedford Public Schools. He also says that he would not allow them to attend school in New Bedford if he didn't feel that it served them well.

The final election for mayor and other public offices is scheduled for November 7th.