NEW BEDFORD — Nearly a week after the arrest of Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia by federal authorities for the second time in less than a year, speculation of what may have enabled that amount of corruption has increased.

During his weekly appearance on the Barry Richard Show, Mayor Jon Mitchell discussed on the ongoing political circus in the city that's separated from New Bedford by just 11 miles.

On Friday, embattled Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was arrested for the second time in less than a year by federal authorities on fraud and extortion related charges. In October of 2018, Correia was arrested on a 13-count federal indictment charging him with defrauding investors in his SnoOwl app. Correia was arrested on a new indictment last week for allegedly extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from prospective marijuana vendors looking to the business in the City, and even his own staff.

Mayor Mitchell, also a former federal prosecutor, and WBSM’s Barry Richard discussed whether state marijuana laws and the strong-mayor governing model many cities take opens up the door to corruption. Mitchell says mayors have a substantial amount of authority over many aspects of city government in the strong-mayor model, and it comes down responsibly vetting candidates for important positions.

“There needs to be some basic vetting of candidates. They decided in Fall River to elect a 23-year-old. Again, I don’t want to slam Fall River for that. I don’t presume to be in those shoes and it’s a different city, but there does need to be the careful vetting of people running for important positions,” Mitchell said.

“And honestly, the Mayor of a strong-mayor government has a lot of authority. It’s not like electing a legislator at any level of government, you’re electing somebody who is in charge of a lot of stuff, marijuana applications among those things, and it really requires everybody to pay close attention.”

Mitchell says the strong-mayor model is ultimately the best choice for New Bedford. He adds that the City has established a series of checks and balances related to granting marijuana licenses to avoid such corruptive behavior.

“We do things in New Bedford to bend over backwards to be forthright with people so there’s never any problem like that. I think people will know with my background, that stuff is not going to be in the cards,” said Mitchell.

“As far as marijuana goes: It’s easy to say, ‘well, you know he had all of that authority and he abused it.’ And of course he did under the marijuana statute. In strong-mayor models of government, which they have, which we have, which most cities in the United States have, the mayor has a lot of authority to approve and disapprove of things. This is just such a glaring example of how that can go wrong, but I happen to think by and large that it’s the most appropriate model of government, at least for New Bedford. It is for a lot of cities, maybe not Fall River, but they have to figure that out.”

Fall River City Council voted 8-1 on Tuesday to temporarily remove Correia from office until his long list of legal issues are resolved.  Just hours later, on Wednesday morning, Correia told Barry Richard that he doesn’t intend to honor that council vote, calling it “non-binding.”

The City Council has not yet responded to Correia’s reaction to the vote.

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