Ponte: Mayor Correia ‘Doesn’t Understand Severity of Situation’
FALL RIVER — City Council President Cliff Ponte is undeterred in his belief that embattled Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia should temporarily step aside.
On the Phil Paleologos Show Tuesday morning, Ponte doubled down on his intent to hold a vote in Council Chambers to remove Correia from office as his legal issues are resolved in court.
“The City Council has a vote tonight, it’s at least going to be on the agenda tonight for us to make a decision as to if the Mayor is deemed able to serve in his capacity as mayor. According to the City Charter, if seven votes prevail, the Mayor would be temporarily removed from mayor and the Council President, which is myself, would resume the duties,” Ponte said.
“All these mayoral supporters that are left in Fall River feel that I’m taking the lead on this because I want to be mayor, and that is certainly not the case. I would’ve ran in the recall election and would’ve ran this September if I really wanted to be mayor that bad. I have very successful businesses that I run that I’m very happy with doing and I do not seek that office at this time.”
Ponte penned a letter to Correia Monday night, saying he originally defended Correia’s decision to stay on the job after the SnoOwl indictment because the alleged crimes took place before he was mayor and were a matter of his personal life. After his second arrest on Friday, Ponte wrote that “the additional 11 indictments brought forth on Friday are directly related to your role as Mayor, as you have utilized the power of your position for personal monetary gain through several alleged schemes, 3 of which are outright theft of City funds.”
The 27-year-old mayor, whose fighting to keep his executive power as an exasperated City Council looks to temporarily remove him, responded to Ponte just hours later, writing a letter in return stating his support of the Council President and Vice-President “co-signing” city business and reviewing actions of the mayor’s office as a compromise.
Correia is already is facing a 13-count indictment from his arrest last October related to his app company SnoOwl. He was arrested again last Friday on 11 additional charges, including charges that he allegedly used his position as mayor to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana retailers looking to set up shop in Fall River.
Mayor Jasiel Correia is fighting a multi-front war for not only his political life, but life as a free citizen as well.
Ponte asks Correia in the letter to “do what is best for Fall River and temporarily step aside,” and says he will call for the City Council to vote tonight on whether or not the mayor is able to continue to perform the duties of his office.
“That’s not going to work. I don’t think he understands the severity of the situation we’re in right now,” Ponte said.
“I mean, you were utilizing your power as mayor to allegedly extort, aid and abet. That’s an issue.”
In what’s sure to be a circus-like atmosphere at City Hall, Councilors will attempt to reach seven votes in favor of Correia’s temporary removal from office. The last City Council meeting involving Correia also saw fireworks, when Correia stormed into the meeting unannounced, sparking an hours-long standoff between the Executive and Legislative branches of Fall River government.
“He stormed into our City Council meeting the last time we had a meeting and everyone wanted to talk about how I was the bad guy because I didn’t let the Mayor just barge into the meeting, sit at the table and do what he wanted to do. It’s a City Council meeting. The President of the United States doesn’t go where he wants to go. I’m sure the Mayor of New Bedford doesn’t run into the City Council chamber, open the door and walk down to the floor in the middle of debate and expect to be heard,” said Ponte.
A 42-page federal indictment says Correia conspired to receive kickbacks from recreational marijuana dispensaries applying for a license in Fall River, and even conspired to extort his own Chief of Staff.
In order for the recreational vendors to be permitted to business in the City of Fall River, the law requires the head of municipal government, in this case being Correia, to submit a letter of non-opposition. The indictment alleges Correia extorted these marijuana vendors for $250,000 each to grant a non-opposition letter them.
The Fall River City Council will vote on the matter at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday night.