Think Hard Before Removing Mayor Correia [OPINION]
Fall River needs to slow right down before it makes a potentially costly mistake.
The Fall River City Council has wisely delayed a vote on a motion to remove embattled Mayor Jasiel Correia from office, at least temporarily, while he fights a 13-count federal corruption indictment. It seems the city charter is a bit ambiguous on the issue, and in fact, it may even be in violation of state law.
Councilor Steve Camara is correct in that there are but three clear paths for Correia's removal from office at this time. He could resign on his own, he could be convicted of the charges against him, in which case he would be forced to resign, or the voters can recall him. Camara says Correia could sue if forced from office, and that could cost the City a tremendous amount of money that could best be used elsewhere.
The removal of the mayor would make City Council President Cliff Ponte the acting mayor, but only on a very limited basis.
Fall River would be left with no one in charge on a full-time basis. In addition, at least six of the nine councilors who would be voting on the question of removal have either been or have expressed an interest in being a candidate for mayor in the past. The vote would be political, if not self-serving.
Fall River residents rally outside of Government Center, calling for Mayor Jasiel Correia's resignation. [Taylor Cormier/Townsquare Media][/caption]Many Fall River residents are angry that their city is engulfed in political turmoil once again and just want this nightmare to go away. I get it. But a knee-jerk reaction to this crisis could plunge the city into chaos and cost a considerable amount of money. Even a recall election, which is allowed for under the city charter, would leave the city in turmoil and cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Jasiel Correia has done a good job as mayor. He's brought the budget under control and has turned a deficit into a significant surplus. Corriea has also surpassed minimum net school spending on education for the first time in years.
Correia has been preparing for a possible indictment for nearly a year now, and all the while the city continues to operate smoothly. There is no reason to believe that he cannot fully function as mayor while preparing to go to trial.
In my humble opinion, the best course of action is to take no action at this time.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.