Florida Can Learn From Fall River Mayor’s Indictment [OPINION]
It's too late for the people of Fall River, Massachusetts now, but not for the voters in Florida. Electing a politician under investigation by the FBI is a disaster.
The citizens of Fall River elected a young and inspirational man to be the mayor of their city in 2015. Jasiel Correia II was just 23 years old, but he was already a member of the City Council. He was a graduate of Providence College and the son of immigrants. He had been honored just a few years earlier as Fall River's youth of the year. He drove a Mercedes-Benz, wore expensive suits and jewelry, and he traveled and dined at expensive restaurants with his girlfriend.
The people of Fall River were impressed by his expensive lifestyle, and believed he deserved the life most didn't have because he was a successful tech entrepreneur. They weren't jealous, they were inspired, and they voted out the incumbent in favor of this American success story, barely over the age to order a beer at Fenway Park and still too young to rent a car at many car agencies.
Earlier this month, Correia was indicted by the U.S. Justice Department and arrested at 6:30 in the morning by the FBI at the home of a friend. According to the indictment, he hadn't actually been a successful entrepreneur at all. The Mercedes-Benz, suits, jewelry, restaurants and travel were all the fruits of a scam he engineered. The government alleges he falsely claimed to be a successful businessman to lure in investors, and then spent their money to fund his lavish lifestyle. They allege he even used the money to fund his political campaign.
Now, the city is in turmoil and embarrassed. Everything is grinding to halt as members of the City Council are fighting over the best way to remove the indicted mayor. The federal government is continuing to investigate Correia, and some members of his staff have been served to appear in front of a federal grand jury. A group of local citizens has started a petition to recall and remove the mayor.
Governor Charlie Baker has asked him to resign. Congressmen Joe Kennedy (grandson of Robert F. Kennedy) and William Keating are calling on him to resign. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has asked him to do the right thing and leave office. The mayor is defiant, and held a massive press conference at City Hall, using public resources and employees, to explain how the charges were phony and he wasn't going to resign.
The saddest part of this whole Fall River saga is that the people of the city were fully aware of the investigation before they reelected the smooth-talking and inspirational mayor last year. The local media had been telling the public about the investigation for months. At first, he lied and denied the FBI was doing any investigation at all. Then he said there was an investigation, but it was all politically motivated and a conspiracy by his enemies. The people and some in the media believed him, and he was overwhelming elected to another term.
Today, the city is in turmoil. Friendships have been destroyed. Vast amounts of time and money are being wasted.
He is innocent until proven guilty, and he will have his day in court. But in the meantime, the city of Fall River is suffering and the damage will take decades to repair.
The people of Florida should consider what is happening in Fall River when they decide who to vote for in the race for governor of the Sunshine State.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.