Staying true to his word, Fall River’s Jasiel Correia isn’t resigning—but, in the wake of two arrests, federal extortion and fraud charges, and an attempted ousting by his own City Council, the embattled mayor is taking a leave of absence and suspending his reelection campaign.
In an interview with the Boston Globe, the 27-year-old mayor said he will retain his title and salary of $119,000 until the end of his term in January, but will cede most of his day-to-day duties to Cliff Ponte, the president of Fall River’s City Council. A new mayor will be elected next month and will take office in 2020.
The decision to take a leave of absence is an unexpected change of tune for the embattled mayor, whose determination to remain in office has pulled him through multiple attempts to remove him. Correia says he is stepping back “so the city is not distracted by this assault on my career and my legacy.”
Correia was first elected Fall River mayor in 2015 at age 23, the youngest mayor the city had ever seen. However, his tenure has taken several dramatic twists and turns. He was first arrested and charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors in his tech start up in October 2018, but survived a recall election and maintained his hold on the office. This September, however, he was arrested again, this time for extortion and bribery charges directly related to his position as mayor.
Following those charges, the Fall River City Council voted to remove Correia from office and instate Ponte as interim mayor. Correia essentially ignored the move, saying that the City Council has no authority to remove him, and a Bristol Superior Court judge eventually took his side. Correia tells the Globe, however, that the case is what prompted his decision to step back and “allow the accomplishments I have made to be in the spotlight . . . totally free of any distraction.”
While he will suspend his campaign, Correia will remain on the ballot for reelection in November, though a win looks increasingly implausible. In the preliminary election last month, Correia barely survived, eking out enough votes to knock challenger Erica Scott-Pacheco off the November ballot, but coming in a distant second from candidate Paul Coogan, who received 62 percent of the vote.
“We know why the numbers were the way they were tonight,” Correia said to his supporters the night of the election. “We know it’s because there has been attack after attack after attack on the national level, to the local level, to the state level.”
To this day, Correia (who has pled not guilty to all charges) maintains his innocence, saying that his leave of absence is not an admission of guilt.
“It’s certainly not an apology and it’s certainly not an admission of anything more or less than the fact that I’ve fulfilled my duties as mayor,” he told the Globe.
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