Fall River City Councilor Stephen A. Camara has responded to the growing question about residency after my previous article showed the public his Declaration of Homestead Act at 38 Cherry and Webb Lane in Westport. Anyone declaring Homestead in Massachusetts (and in other states) may only do this for their principle home in which they occupy (live in) or intend to occupy during the protections of Homestead.

After getting a statement from him last Friday, Camara said that his Fall River home at 55 LeBaron Street is his primary residence.

It leaves me with the impression that there is no acceptable answer for this.

He is either A) lying about living at 55 LeBaron Street as a primary residence or B) is lying in his Declaration of Homestead Act record, promising the Commonwealth that 38 Cherry and Webb Lane in Westport is his primary home, where he actually lives.

I don't pretend to know which is the truth but I do know that both of these things he said cannot be so.

Lying about A would disqualify him as a city resident if he does live in Westport, which means immediately, he can no longer be a Fall River City Councilor nor is he eligible to be on the 2019 ballot.

The law says lying about B, in his Homestead Declaration, comes with "the pains and penalties of perjury."

Camara again maintained his residence is 55 LeBaron Street when the Fall River Herald News interviewed him about the claims made in my previous article. He isn't denying the Westport Homestead signature, but instead seems to think his deflecting the topic to my motivation for reporting on it is the issue here.

In the article, he also accused most of Fall River of not wanting him to "stand up for the Constitution" and implies that they condemn his supposed "innocent until proven guilty" position, presumably speaking about the charges against Mayor Jasiel Correia, or perhaps the drug dealers in his apartments that the Fall River police mentioned.

Here I was thinking that Camara was only standing in the way of the Home Rule to boot Correia from office two weeks ago, as the lone voice of dissent in an 8-1 vote, based on the idea that the language in the charter doesn't allow for it. Now we see he is a die-in-the-wool Jasielite, who believes there is a fair chance the federal agents got it all wrong, that Jasiel could very well be innocent and that his sensational arrests and indictments don't provide "other cause" for legal removal.

But as for the Homestead/residency issue, who can give the answers to these legal questions?

  • What are the pains and penalties of perjury if you actually do lie on a Declaration of Homestead?
  • Who is the authoritative body over enforcement of it in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?
  • If this isn't perjury and punishable after he admitted that his primary residence isn't the Westport one he had protected in his Homestead Act Declaration but is only his "vacation home," why doesn't everyone lie to protect their more expensive, non-principle home?

That, in itself, was an adventure that took some time.

I called the Secretary of State's Office, who referred me to the New Bedford Registry of Deeds, which also left me with no answers as the scenario is extremely rare if not uncharted. So I next contacted the Bristol County District Attorney's Office, and spokesman Greg Miliote then pointed me to the Massachusetts Attorney General Office, which responded with, "This question is best directed to the Secretary of State's Office and their Ballot Law Commission."

My motivation doesn't matter, Mr. Camara. It's true that I did take interest in you with your sole dissenting vote to remove Mayor Correia, but the more I read about you as a councilor and as a landlord in Fall River, the more I felt the need for a deep dive into your motivations.

I thought to myself, "This laissez-faire attitude about cleaning up his problematic apartments is typical of an absentee landlord." Then, a solid tip came in and the rest was pretty easy to piece together.

While it is concerning that a person in Stephen A. Camara's position has no external concerns that Mayor Correia is using his office to stage serious crimes as the feds have said. It is perhaps also a good barometer for Fall River to gauge the practice of Camara's ethics by him not only wanting his cake in Fall River but eating it as well, along the tony banks of the Westport River.

Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at ken.pittman@townsquaremedia.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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