Politics

A Fall River City Council Meeting Flew Off the Rails After Mayor Jasiel Correia Showed Up Uninvited

The Mayor is governing while under indictment.


AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

Routine local government sessions aren’t exactly known for being high drama—but if there were ever a municipal-level spinoff of The West Wing, it would probably look a lot like Monday night’s Fall River City Council meeting.

As the city engineer and his team faced some intense questioning from the council regarding a public works project the council believes has been mismanaged, an unexpected guest strode onto the council floor two hours after the meeting began—Jasiel Correia, the 27-year-old mayor of Fall River who, you’ll remember, is governing while under indictment.

“Excuse me, Mr. Mayor?” Council President Cliff Ponte can be heard saying in video of the exchange. “Is there a reason you’re just walking on the council floor uninvited?”

According to WBUR, Correia said he had been watching the live stream of the meeting at home, and felt some councilors were mistreating members of his administration, inspiring him to drive to City Hall and interrupt proceedings.

What ensued was a seating arrangement spat straight out of a high school cafeteria. Ponte implored Correia to move to the audience (“Mr. Mayor, you have not been invited to join this table for discussion”), Correia appeared unfazed, and—in the style of a bad kid in the back row of homeroom—sat back in a seat at the table with the aides who were being questioned, emptied his pockets onto the tabletop, and took out his phone. Sensing that Correia would not move, Ponte called a recess, which stretched on for 45 minutes.

During that window, Correia took the opportunity to speak with a WBUR reporter about the ways he believes councilors embellished the problems with the public works project in question, saying that they did so to tarnish his name.

“I cannot stress enough that there are councilors on this council that have a personal vendetta, that have an issue with me personally, that obviously don’t want to see me succeed in this upcoming election,” Correia said.

When the council reconvened, Ponte seemed determined to get things back on track. “Let’s not make this more of a circus than the mayor has already done,” he said, as Correia stayed planted in his seat.

However, City Councilor Shawn Cadime couldn’t resist his chance to take a jab at Correia. He reminded Ponte that the police officers stationed in the room (whose number went from one to three after Correia’s arrival), could escort the mayor out. “I know the mayor is accustomed to getting arrested and I don’t want to have that happen,” he said.

Then—chaos. Members of the audience started to yell insults at the councilors, after which a visibly-frustrated Ponte called a vote to adjourn the Committee on Finance in the middle of the meeting, preventing Correia from having a chance to respond to the council’s comments on the public works projects.

“I will say that it’s unfortunate that the mayor wants to take it to this level, that the city council has to adjourn its business due to the fact that the mayor wants to be stubborn and sit at the council seat,” he said, tensely.

Correia was arrested last October and charged with nine counts of wire fraud and four counts of tax fraud in connection with his startup SnoOwl. He stands accused of pocketing more than $230,000 of the funds investors contributed to the company, using it to fund an extravagant lifestyle that includes a Mercedes, casino trips, and “adult entertainment.” In March, he achieved the remarkable political feat of getting recalled and re-elected in one night. He will next be up for election in November.