So What Happens Now With Cannabis In The City?

Fall River’s Delegation on Beacon Hill sent a letter to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission on Tuesday asking for a moratorium on the current 14 letters of non-opposition and host agreements.


This came in response to several of them being mentioned in the 11 count indictment handed up against Jasiel Correia II Friday last Friday in Boston.


Bristol’s Sixth District State Representative Carole Fiola read verbatim to WSAR what exactly was asked in the letter:


"...with respect for request that the approval of anything pending retail or medical marijuana location in the city of Fall River be temporarily delayed and a moratorium on the issuance of such licenses be enacted until such time that the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has an opportunity to fully digest and investigate the alleged actions identified within the indictment to determine what impact if any these actions had on the issuance of letters of non-opposition and community host agreement negotiations."


Fiola went on to tell WSAR that legislation will be filed on Beacon Hill this month seeking to close loopholes that have been determined as a result of what has transpired in Fall River.


"We're hoping to file legislation in the next couple of days,” she said. “There are loopholes. We passed the marijuana bill. We spent time and took our time on it. We learned from other states. Along the way you make adjustments. That happens with a lot of legislation we do."


Within the letter Fiola along Paul Schmid and Alan Silvia, the other members of the Bristol Delegation said they worry that “the process of securing such licenses and host agreements may have been undermined.” 


WSAR asked Mayor Correia about this letter. He maintained that he should have been informed about the trio’s concern who signed the document. 


"I think that letter, they maybe should have called the office and sat down and strategize about that,” he said. “What I fear is that politicians get very concerned and their hair stick up on their arms and they take action that in fact either brings negative attention to the city or some cases may derail city progress."


The Fall River Mayor went on to suggest the four specific companies part of Friday’s indictment should be investigated by the Cannabis Control Commission.


"I think if the cannabis commission decides to do something, that’s their prerogative,” he said. “But I would caution them to not destroy the entire process that has existed. You have 14-plus companies that in the city of Fall River that have engaged in these non-opposition letters. It's been a good thing for the city.”


Correia claimed once again in his comments he had no idea if those four had side deals or not. 


“These allegations based on four potential companies that may have had their own side deals going on that I was not party too,” he claimed. “They have their own issues and maybe the investigation has to look in to them and what they've done. But that doesn't mean we have a faulty process in Fall River."


The Cannabis Control Commission will now meet this afternoon and for the first time take up the letter’s request.


WSAR caught up with the Chairman of the Commission leading up to this session. He said they are working to ensure the legality of the industry.


“Overall, the objective of the commission is to stand up an industry that works for the citizens and state of Massachusetts,” he said. “It’s an industry that’s legal and safe and generates jobs as well as tax revenue for cities and towns around the state.”


Hoffman claims an incident like this makes their job harder.


“Anything that makes the industry less successful like when its not compliant with laws or when there are crimes like the ones charged in the indictment, to me, that makes our job that much more difficult,” he said.


Hoffman continued to acknowledge his concern over the issue.


“We really want this industry to be something that works for the cities and towns in the state as well as upholding the law,” he said. “I’m deeply concerned by the allegations. We have no information other than what we read in the indictment.”


The Chairman continued, “We’re using our own means to see what we can come up with at the state level. I’m very concerned about this and we’re going to do everything we can to get more knowledge about the information and take the appropriate action.”

City Council Votes By 8-1 Margin To Temporarily Remove Mayor Jasiel Correia II From Office

The nine members of the Fall River City Council voted by a margin of 8-1 to temporarily remove Mayor Jasiel Correia II from the mayor’s office after invoking Article 3 Section 3-8 of the Fall River City Charter. 


This comes one week before the mayoral preliminary election in Fall River between Correia, School Committee Member Paul Coogan and community activist Erica-Scott Pacheco. 


Now the possibility of court proceedings comes into play and a countdown to Friday afternoon for a possible transfer of mayoral power. 


Council President Cliff Ponte who could perhaps become interim mayor outlined the case against Mayor Correia.


"The mayor completely lacks credibility and at this time due to the additional multiple charges when he creates a lack of credibility in the city,” he said. “For example, would a national company be willing to negotiate economic development opportunities for someone under indictment? We don't know that."


Ponte went on to explain what would happen if a legal battle were to ensue for the office of mayor.


"In the event that council, for Mr. Correia seeks the issuance of a temporary restraining order to prevent the city council president from acting as mayor in accordance with the proceeding vote of section 3-8 of the city charter, the city council authorizes its attorney to agree to the imposition of such an order for the purpose of establishing an agreed upon date for holding a preliminary injunction meeting and any related scheduling matters,” he stated. 


“In addition to that, I'd also like to add to that motion that there should be a time period by which the mayor steps aside or gives the keys to his office to the clerk, however we want to do that, by 5 p.m," Ponte said.


One councilor Shawn Cadime who has clashed with Mayor Correia this summer after claiming he was receiving kickbacks for issuing letters of non-opposition, claimed there could be more charges coming.


"Let's talk about the gaming machines,” he said. “I'll say this again, I've said it before. Everyone wants to say that's 'rumorville.' It's not 'rumorville.' I call it foreshadowing. We know that there was a sweep for illegal gaming machines throughout the city where individuals have said they paid five thousand dollar for licensing of those machines. That's still before the FBI and grand jury."


Prior to the city council session last night, Mayor Correia attended a rally of 40 supporters or so outside of government center.


In a conversation with WSAR, Correia said he continued to claim his innocence of all 24 charges.


"The allegations and accusations are just those, they're allegations,” he stated. “They're not true. They're not founded in truth. There is no truth to them and I'll have my day in court. That doesn't mean that we should switch mayors. That doesn't mean that I should resign. It means that I've got a harder battle to fight but we will fight this battle and we’ll come out on the other side victorious."


Correia maintained he would continue to do his job.


"I'm not going to any court,” he said. “The council cannot do what they're doing. They do not have the power to do that. I have to authorize it. So, it's not going to go anywhere. If they want to take it to court, unfortunately I hope they don't because if they do, it's going to cost the taxpayers more money. I am prepared to continue to do my job. I was here Monday, I was here Tuesday and I'll be here Wednesday."


Correia did not attend the city council session last night and was not seen watching inside of his office. He most likely will now have to notify the federal court in Boston of his job status as one of his conditions prior to trial is that he remains employed or looking for employment.

Another Round Of Correia VS. Cadime

The conversation in the city of Fall River dealing with a cap on legal cannabis dispensaries has filled the Summer.


In the last week, Mayor Jasiel Correia II in a letter stated his intent to veto the cap of 11 for legal recreational dispensaries in Fall River voted on by the city council earlier this Summer. The council will have an opportunity to overturn that decision at their next meeting.


In the latest portion of the debate the question of which councilors should have voted and who should have recused themselves has come up. 


In a conversation with the Fall River Mayor, Jasiel Correia II told WSAR Councilor Shawn Cadime and perhaps Leo Pelletier should have recused themselves from the vote.


"First and foremost, I think Mr. Pelletier is disgruntled because some of the plans he may of had going on from the people he brought forward were not viable candidates,” he said. “So, I think it's a personal issue. I think he should have abstained."


"The question that arose with Councilor Cadime's apparent conflict of interest,” he explained. “Now, I know he may explain that he doesn't negotiate or sign but certainly there is a connection, especially through the city of Fall River and also I think it’s just is not a good precedent.”


The Mayor said this is a rare circumstance among the nine councilors. 


“This is a unique situation,” Correia said. ”There is no other city councilor that would have this conflict of interest."


WSAR News also spoke with Councilor Cadime. He accused the Mayor of being a “sociopath” in his reaction to the letter and response to Correia.


"Obviously, faulty logic on the Mayor's part,” Cadime said. “Typically, sociopaths tend to reflect what they do onto others and try to distract people. That's essentially what we have here. We have Jasiel deflecting his actions.” 


Councilor Cadime claims the Fall River Mayor has acted immorally. 


“It's unethical behavior the way he goes about issuing host community agreements for retail and medical marijuana onto other people,” he explains. “Everything I've done in Seekonk is consistent with what I've done in Fall River."


Cadime went on to explain to WSAR the process Seekonk followed through a town meeting and voting process. 


"The Board of Selectmen tried to make a decision that they wanted to ban recreational marijuana so we went through that process, which was a public process.” 


“They put together a bylaw that went to town meeting and also put it on a ballot question to ban recreational marijuana,” he said. “That failed both."


Correia said Cadime should have recused himself from making any decisions on a cannabis license cap in Fall River. 


"I'm not saying it's an ethical violation but certainly anybody that has common sense can say ok if I'm representing another community as there CEO or city administrator like Shawn Cadime is doing in the town of Seekonk then I probably shouldn't be voting to limit the number of licenses in other communities that I'm also city councilor in.” 


The Mayor claims Fall River should be aware of Cadime being a deciding vote in setting a limit to cannabis licenses. 


“And that's exactly what he did,” Mayor Correia said. “He was one of the deciding votes to limit the number arbitrarily of licenses in Fall River and I think that raises a concern that residents and taxpayers should be aware of."


In the conversation with Councilor Cadime he explained the situation in Seekonk regarding the process of issuing licenses and host agreements. 


"The town was required to submit at least twenty percent of off-premise liquor licenses which in our case is two licenses,” he said. “We had a number of submitted applications.” 


Cadime continued, “we had two companies who had already submitted, looking for a license that actually had a purchase and sales agreement on property. Which, by the way, Seekonk has an overlay district so it's very specific and exciting locations for these marijuana facilities."


Fall River City Council President Cliff Ponte did recuse himself the vote on capping the number of legal cannabis dispensaries.

Malone Says "Don't Smoke"

As the first day of the new school year commences Wednesday morning across Fall River, the issue of vaping is an epidemic-level concern that the city is no victim to.


Fall River Public School Superintendent Matthew Malone is urging students to not vape, smoke or use any tobacco products on school grounds. 


"If you want to smoke, not on my time - not in school,” he said. “Don't bring that stuff onto our property."


Malone went on to explain that Fall River is not the only one dealing with this problem. It’s something that has reached every corner of the country.


"Vaping is a real issue across the country,” he said. “We don't allow smoking in or on school grounds and vaping counts as smoking. We don't allow that - it's a state law. It's definitely something easier to conceal. I see way too many kids vaping and thinking it's cool."


To go even deeper into this problem in schools is what other things teens can put into vaping devices. Cannabis oils are becoming a prevalent option for the same devices and easily accessible.


"Kids can go out and get marijuana plant-based oils to put in it,” Malone said. “So, you really don't know what exactly is in those things sometimes.”


The Fall River Public School Superintendent had a message for his students.  


“My own personal message to kids is please don't start vaping and don't smoke,” he asked. “Don't chew tobacco - don't do any of that. It's all bad. It leads to a lifetime of unhealthy possibilities. Don't vape in school!"


All smoking inside and outside of every Fall River public school building was prohibited several years ago.

And A New School Year Begins...

At the most recent session of the Fall River School Committee, the District's Chief Financial Officer Kevin Almeida gave a briefing.


"Last Monday, the City Council voted to appropriate a million dollars from health insurance savings this past year,” he said. “We'll be coming forward to you in September with possible recommendations.” 


There’s also money from other funding avenues.


“In addition, we have $983,000 in Puerto Rico funds that will have to spent this year. We'll be coming forward with that information, as well, hopefully in the October timeframe."


The end-of-the-year report for fiscal year 2019 is due October 1st.


The District’s Chief Operating Officer told the committee many repairs and renovations were made over the Summer in preparation for the new school year starting in just one week across a plethora of public school buildings.


"It seems that everything, financially, gets deferred,” Ken Pacheco said. “So, there's a lot of maintenance in the building that gets deferred. It's basically nobody's fault except that with the regular funding there's just not enough money.” 


He told the committee members they were fortunate to have a surplus.


“We've been lucky enough to have some extra dollars,” Pacheco said. “The superintendent has put aside $100,000 for preventative maintenance so a lot of that work is happening and making a difference."


He reminded the gathered a lack of finances is what caused the putting-off of certain work


"It was being done as well as they could,” Pacheco said. “It's not a slight, what we were doing - we just weren't doing enough."


The first day of school in Fall River is Wednesday, August 28th.

Should Fall River Change The Current Form Of Municipal Government?

A Fall River City Council session will take place this evening at 6 p.m.


Among the items that could be considered is a set of changes to the current form of a municipal government. If the current mayor, city council, great and general court and Fall River voter all agree it could become a city manager, mayor and deputy mayor form. 


The mayor and deputy mayor would be part of the city council and likely part of the school committee.


"This change would make the mayor that chairman of the board of both the city council and school committee,” Committee Chair of a Special Task Force and City Councilor Steve Camara explained.  “The deputy mayor would be the second in the absence of the chairman of the board.”


Camara also went on to describe how the process could change for those two positions when it comes to the ballot. 


“That duo, and that's what this refers to, in the preliminary election people would run as a team,” he said. “So, if candidate A and candidate B want to submit themselves as mayor and deputy mayor, they would go on the ballot as one team."


Depending on the speed with which it moves, the measure could be part of the upcoming ballot in November or in 2021.


Camara explains that if the municipal government form were to change, the city manager "shall be the chief administrative officer of the city and shall be responsible for the administration of all departments, commissions, boards and officers of the city, whether established before its adoption of this plan or thereafter, except that of the city clerk, city auditor, city corporation counsel and any official appointed by the governor or anybody selected by the voters of the city."


Current Fall River City Administrator Cathy Ann Viveiros questioned Councilor Camara about the number of signatures future contenders for office may have to secure.


"So, if I'm understanding this correctly, do they have to secure 450 signatures?" She asked.


Camara replied, "Referring to this preliminary election procedure, yes. This was raised at the last meeting.” 


He went on, “What if candidates A and B want to be candidates for mayor and deputy mayor, but don't want to take a chance at not being a member of the city council or school committee? They would have to appear on the ballot for council or committee. It would be their option."


Viveiros continued by questioning the timing of changing the process and noting how critical that is.


"We're not going to be able to give the public adequate time to be educated, understand them and be able to make an informed decision on it,” she said. “So I think the timing is extremely ambitious. I worry that the decision that gets made is not as informed as it needs to be based on the timeline."


Camara indicated this might be the time to see if voters want a totally different form of municipal government in the city of Fall River.

Mayor Correia Grants Girlfriend's Brother Two Letters Of Non-Opposition For Two Prospective Cannabis Dispensaries

While a debate continues through the Summer on setting a possible cap to limit the number of cannabis dispensaries in Fall River, WSAR News has learned the number of letters opposition issued by the current administration has reached 13.


In documents obtained by the Fall River Corporation Counsel’s Office, the two most recent letters were issued to Pedro Fernandes, the brother of a woman who Mayor Jasiel Correia II is reportedly dating and with whom he shares a Peckham Street residence. 


Mayor Correia signed the documents on July 18 while Fernandes signed the day before on the 17th. This would make Fernandes the only prospect in Fall River who has been issued two letters of non-opposition for his business. 


Fernandes is listed as the President of New Leaf Enterprises Inc. with locations on Second Street and South Main Street near the border with Tiverton. New Leaf was incorporated on June 22nd.


In the copy of the host agreement provided to WSAR News, it states that the agreements are contingent upon their acceptance into the Cannabis Control Commission’s Social Equity Program.


The program is developed to give those convicted of drug offenses, and or those residing in communities of disproportionate impact, (which Fall River qualifies) an opportunity to participate the marijuana business.


According to the Cannabis Control Commission’s website, the applicant must meet one of the following requirements:


  • Have resided in an area of disproportionate impact for at least five of the past 10 years and current income may not exceed 400% of the federal poverty level; or

  • Have a past drug conviction and a resident of Massachusetts for at least the preceding 12 months; or

  • Have been married to or the child of a person with a drug conviction, and a resident of Massachusetts for at least the preceding 12 months.


Earlier in the Summer, the Digital Edition of the Fall River Herald News reported the Fernandes family along with Luis Bettencourt were to be awarded a license to operate a temporary entertainment venue on the City Pier. That venture was put on hold by the Environmental Protection Agency for PCB contamination dating back to 20110


One city council member already expressed his concern with Mayor Correia’s handling of issuing letters of non-opposition. Earlier in the Summer Shawn Cadime accused the mayor of receiving kickbacks from the cannabis companies he issued letters to. This prompted an exchange of letters between Cadime and the Mayor’s Lead Defense Attorney, Kevin Reddington who called Cadime’s comments “slanderous.”.


Among the host agreements was one with Loop Cultivation Partners slated for a Commerce Drive location with Matthew Pichette listed as the company’s CEO, the husband of Dina Pichette who the Fall River Herald News reported was fined for illegal donations to the Mayor Jasiel Correia campaign. 


The Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance fined Pichette $5,000 after she told them she asked three family members to make contributions for the same amount, then transferring funds to reimburse them. It was noted the Correia Campaign had no knowledge of the issues involved with the Pichette campaign donations.

New Economic Development Director Talks City Pier

At a recent session of the Fall River Redevelopment Authority, the city’s new Economic Development Director asked the board if they would allow her to explore other opportunities for the city pier property.


Maria Marasco discussed the work that continues on the pier near Point Gloria on Fall River’s Waterfront. When Marasco addressed the board she said it was likely time to look for alternatives with space in conjunction with Foth Engineering. 


"The question becomes - does the board wish to explore all possible uses for the pier?” She asked. “In addition to a recreational marine use to this contract. If so, is the board comfortable giving me the authority to negotiate with Foth to amend the current contract you have with them?"


Marasco noted it’s important not to limit the amount of revenue generators for any piece of the property.


"My feeling is that part of our responsibility is to explore all revenue generating opportunities," the city’s new economic development director said to the R.D.A. board.


The chairwoman of the board is Kara O’Connell. She said at the same session she would be apprehensive to support commercial fishing for that portion of the pier with her experience in the industry. 


"We have a responsibility to explore wherever we can to see what other options there are. My only thought when I initially read the commercial fishing vessel section - and I'm only limited to my experience with them, being on the Vineyard and then here in the city - I'm not quite sure we want commercial fishing vessels in the center of the city,” she explained. 


In a story reported by the digital edition of The Fall River Herald News, various agencies including MassWorks, Mass Development and Seaport Council have granted well over $3 million to the City Pier Project.

Patricia Haddad Discusses The Vineyard Wind Project

In a conversation with Bristol Fifth District State Representative and Speaker Pro Tem of the Massachusetts House Patricia Haddad, she told WSAR various stakeholders are awaiting decisions from the Federal Department of the Interior regarding the Vineyard Wind Project.


Haddad said developers have been hoping to secure time-sensitive contracts as Governor Charlie Baker went to the capital last week.


"Last Monday, the Governor went to DC and met with the Secretary of the Interior and advocated for moving it along quicker,” she said. “We don't know how it worked out. He felt that it was productive so we're hoping things will continue to go forward."


Haddad says money in the wind project will be lost if the credits aren’t reached in enough time.


"If they're not hit, then unfortunately the project loses money,” she said. “The state itself has not actually given the developers any incentive.”


Haddad continued, “The only incentive they have is the distributors who buy electricity from them. They're making their money or profit or ability to bring in the very low price because there's a federal tax credit."


With bids going out at the end of the week, Haddad told WSAR a budget amendment of hers regarding wind energy has been updated


"I had an amendment in the budget,” she said. “It went through. It was actually one of the few things the Governor sent back as an amendment. We had put a cap on the price saying it could not go any higher, unaware of how deep the difference was going to be in the federal tax credit.”


She explained that the Governor amended her amendment.


“This is what the Governor sent back - an amendment to my amendment saying that the cap could be lifted for one time so that the bids that go out on August 9 have some wiggle room," Haddad told WSAR.


Bristol Community College and UMASS Dartmouth are among those promoting wind energy. It’s hoped Somerset and New Bedford can both benefit as each will deal with components regarding windmills that will be placed in the Atlantic.

Michael Rodrigues Talks About Governor Baker Signing The Budget

Bristol-Plymouth First District State Senator who serves as Chairman of the Massachusetts Ways and Means Committee Michael Rodrigues had a conversation with WSAR about Governor Charlie Baker signing the fiscal year 2020 budget into law and in an unusual move, without utilizing any veto override power.


"The fact that the Governor signed the budget without any spending vetoes and full accepting our revenue assumption for this existing fiscal year means that we were all on the same page,” he said.


A sense of complete understanding was held between all 3 phases.


“The House, the Senate and the Governor (were all on the same page) on producing a very fiscally-responsible budget,” Rodrigues said. “It makes real targeted investment in areas of all of our shared priorities.”


Later on this Fall, when everyone returns from a Summer recess and formal session begins alterations to the Foundation Budget Formula for Public Education will continue.


"The Joint Committee on Education in the House and Senate is just about done putting their proposal together for consideration as we look forward on updating the so-called Foundation Budget of Education - the Chapter 70 funding formula,” Rodrigues said. 


“We plan on taking that up in September-October when we turn to formal session."

A Meeting About Swansea's Water

"We're going to do 5 more miles right now but we're going to do 25 more miles before now and June 2020,” Swansea Water Commissioner Jim Hall said. “That's the goal."


Hall said this Tuesday night at a rare standing room-only gathering for a Swansea Selectmen meeting to debate what to do about the quality and safety of Swansea’s water. 


This is the plan to solve the issue - ice pigging to clean 25 miles of old pipes by the end of June next year. 


Hall told those gathered for the last 3 years the water commissioners in Swansea have been gathering data and information to create this solution.


"In 2018, I got my fellow commissioners to agree with me that there needed to be more done,” he said. “We started logging the calls and created a database. We were figuring out frequency and location.”


Hall explained that they needed data because it clarified that the entire system wasn’t the problem.  


“Obviously, the public was frustrated but we're certainly not in a position from a data standpoint to jump in and randomly start trying to fix the system because it didn't need fixing in its entirety."


One Swansea resident had an issue with the talk of data, statistics and numbers


"Why would anybody want to go on a website and look at 20 years of data?” Nick Correia asked All we want is clean water. That's all we want.” 


That passionate request came with a crowd of cheers and applause


“Don't tell me to look at a website or numbers that don't mean nothing to me,” he went on. “It may mean something to you but they don't mean hogwash to me.” 


Correia explained that all Swansea residents want is the assurance they’ll have clean water in their everyday lives. 


“All I want is clean water when I wake up in the morning and take a shower,” he said. “That's all I want. When my wife washes the clothes she complains to me the clothes are all yellow. Please keep your data to yourself.”


Swansea’s Town Administrator John McAuliffe said portions of his experience has been dealing with water issues but his experience is not the same as the water commissioners. 


"We stand here to provide help in any capacity but we won't step on the toes of the water department,” he said. “I won't say I can run a water department better than any better than Jeff Sutherland or Jim Hall because I can't.” 


McAuliffe reminded those gathered that the incidents that have created the problem are eternal ones.


“I was in that position, though,” he said. “It's a challenging one. There's a lot of old pipes. The most recent flare-up was an external issue. I think it’s important to know that. It was a water sprinkler testing company and hydrant testing company."


One of the Swansea Selectmen made a recommendation to the water commissioners to improve communications of the issue between them and the citizens of Swansea. 


“One of my recommendations to the commission is at the minimum to have meetings televised for the public to be able to view," Derrick Heim said.


He went on to tell those concerned should get involved when and where they can, as well.


"They should really get involved by going to the water commission meetings and individuals who want to be heard are heard at those meetings.”

Fall River City Councilor Shawn Cadime Receives A Letter From Mayor Jasiel Correia's Lead Defense Attorney

In copies of letters this week forwarded to WSAR, Fall River City Council Member Shawn Cadime and the lead Defense Attorney for Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II engaged in a war of words.


This came in the wake of comments Cadime made during the most recent City Council session in a debate over the resolution asking that the number of cannabis dispensaries in the city of Fall River be capped off at the number 11.


Cadime’s comments sounded like this:


"I think something that we are aware of but ignore is the money being given to the administration by these marijuana companies for the licenses and the kickback they're receiving in order to issue these licenses,” he said. “This is an issue”


Cadime told council this has been ignored in the continuous cannabis conversation.


“The only way for us to put a stop to it is to put a cap on the number of licenses that we have,” he said. “It's an unfortunate situation but it's the reality of the situation. We can continue to turn a blind eye but sooner or later we'll start to see additional charges come down on individuals receiving money for these licenses.”


He continued. “We'll all be sitting here saying we should have put a cap on it to eliminate the exposure. To say that there is no issues is a lie at this point or misleading the public."


The statement prompted a letter to Cadime from Kevin Reddington, who is Mayor Correia’s Lead Defense Attorney. He called the comments “slanderous” and in the letter’s final paragraph said that “further irresponsible, childish comments of this incendiary nature will be made at your own legal peril.”


In a conversation with Councilor Cadime following the release of these letters on the same day, WSAR was told that he took the legal advice of the Mayor’s attorney of reaching out to the U.S Attorney..


"I don't think I have any useful information,” he said. “Obviously, at the recommendation of Jasiel Correia's Defense Attorney, I reached out and I'm sure the U.S Attorney is speaking to more important individuals that have a lot more information to offer than I can.” 


Cadime continued. “Notwithstanding that, I went to live up to the recommendation to take the free legal advice that Jasiel Correia's Defense Attorney gave me so I reached out to the U.S Attorney."


The Fall River City Councilor is confident he will not have any legal issues due to these comments.


"First of all, as an elected official the threshold for slander is a lot higher than the average person so I'm not worried about that at all,” he explained. “Quite frankly, my comments weren't slanderous. I think there are people that are in denial of what's going on. And then there are people who have been hearing the exact same thing since 2016 with what's been transpiring.”


Cadime said either everyone has looked the other way or is waiting for someone else to do something about it.


“We've turned a blind eye or we've been waiting for the F.B.I and the U.S Attorney's Office to do what they need to do," he said.


In a letter dated July 23, 2019 and sent to the lead federal prosecutor in the case of the United States of America vs. Jasiel Correia II, councilor Cadime offered to provide “any assistance I can bring to put an end to the political corruption, which in my opinion has plagued the city of Fall River since 2016.


Cadime closed his letter by asking for a meeting to be of “any assistance to the U.S Attorney’s Office or the F.B.I.”

Should Single-Use Plastic Bags Be Banned In Fall River?

"In order to reduce plastic bag use in Fall River, we ask the council to forward this item to the Committee on Ordinances and Legislation to draft an ordinance appropriate to the city of Fall River."


City Councilor Steve Camara outlined this final resolution at a session of the Council’s Committee on Health and Environmental Affairs of a proposed ordinance that seeks to ban the use of single-use plastic bags in Fall River. 


A Westport resident and Fall River business owner argued for the proposed ban to join in over 100 cities and towns in the Commonwealth. 


"We're here because we risk creating a lot more environmental pollution if we don't act now to eliminate a variety of single-use plastics,” Ilene Sheehan said. “But we're here particularly to propose that Fall River adopt what 122 other cities and towns in Massachusetts have done which is, a ban on single-use plastic bags or grocery bags."


Council will meet again on August 12 when this resolution would likely be on the agenda and would need to be sent to Ordinances and Legislation.

A Gift For An Old Friend

"This is a request to dedicate the Doran Playground area in memory of long-time city councilor and friend Al Alves.”


Fall River School Committee Vice Chair Mark Costa suggested this at a recent session of the Fall River School Committee Facilities and Operations Sub Committee on behalf of the Chair. 


“I think it is a great suggestion,” Costa said. “He was always an advocate for education. He always stood up for the kids. He did a great deal of good for this community."


Alves passed away earlier this Summer. He was a staple in the community of Fall River, particularly in the Columbia Street area.


"Since the Doran school is very close his restaurant that he owned for many years on Columbia Street, naturally he adopted that school,” School Committee Member Kevin Aguiar said. “He served on the building committee for over 20 years. He held the 5th grade graduation dinner at the TA Restaurant.”


Aguiar talked about Alves’ passion for education and the local community.


“He and his family have donated thousands of dollars to not only the Doran school but students and children throughout the Greater Fall River area,” Aguiar said. “He was very passionate about the school and really Columbia Street in general."


The full seven-member Fall River School Committee will be asked to approve this request later this Summer.

A Conversation With Joe Kennedy

WSAR News had a conversation with Massachusetts Fourth District Congressman Joseph Kennedy III. One of the topics brought up in the talk was the call to impeach President Trump and how the Congressman reached that conclusion for himself.


"I reached my conclusion that the president had obstructed justice based off of reading the Mueller Report - based off of consultation with legal experts - off of conversations I've had former and current federal prosecutors as well as additional research I have done," he said.


Kennedy explained to WSAR the second half of the Mueller Report is where you’ll find the case for obstruction laid out.


"By the time you folks actually have a chance to read through the reports, particularly the second half of it - the so-called Volume II - the Special Counsel makes it abundantly clear that there is substantial evidence to indicate that the president on multiple occasions committed criminal acts, obstruction of justice,” he said.


The Commonwealth Congressman doesn’t feel there’s anything left for consideration once that’s revealed


“After you come to that conclusion or after a member of congress comes to the conclusion, I'm not so sure there's much else to consider," Kennedy told WSAR.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi was brought up in the midst of the conversation and Kennedy had nothing but respect for her as well as the process being played out.


"I think the Speaker is doing everything she can to insure that members get access to all of the information they need and critically, that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be testifying before critical committees next week for the public to see,” he said. “The information, hopefully, will answer some questions for both members and the American public as to what the report actually said."


Kennedy also has an amendment calling for an investigative unit to monitor issues related to the 2020 election cycle.

The Cannabis Conversation Continues In Fall River

After originally concluding a debate on enacting a provision that would cap the number of cannabis retail locations to 11, Fall River City Council Vice President Pam Laliberte-Lebeau asked to consider, switching her vote from a ‘No’ to a ‘Yes.’


The matter was then sent onto a second reading and enrollment later this Summer, with an opportunity to further amend the provision. 


Council members debated the merits of cannabis sales on future municipal budgets and whether or not Corporation Counsel Joseph Macy.


"I don't think this is particularly important to anybody but myself but I just want to make the record clear,” Macy said. “I was not asked for an opinion prior to this meeting. Had I been asked formally for a written opinion I would have provided it."


In the midst of the debate, a discussion over revenue between Council Member Shawn Cadime and City Administrator Cathy Ann Viveiros erupted. 


Cadime asked Viveiros a question about revenue coming in from Northeast Alternatives as the only recreational cannabis seller in the city. 


"We have been very conservative in our estimate,” Viveiros replied. “There will be, for the foreseeable future, a revenue source from cannabis sales. I don't know how much projected revenues will grow. We don't know what that trajectory will be but I question that it will go below."


This debate sparked an engagement between the two over the end of the Pay-As-You-Throw Era.


"So, what happened was you eliminated the purple bags without the marijuana revenue coming in,” Cadime said. “When it did come in, it saved the budget.” 


“It helped to supplant what the issue was - you did it without the marijuana companies. You were getting rid of the purple bags regardless of what was happening with no care whatsoever on the impact on the financial specifics."


"Well, that's not true councilor," Viveiros responded. 


"It's absolutely true," he interjected.  


Viveiros countered. "It absolutely is not. We would not have taken action if we couldn't have maintained a balanced budget.”


Cadime claimed the administration got rid of purple bags without anticipating what type of revenue cannabis would bring in. 


"You did it without knowing that would take place,” he told Viveiros. “You eliminated it before even submitting any type of financial forecasting to this city council."


Councilor Steve Camara gave his thoughts and told his fellow members the process should be able to play out over time.


"Let the market prevail,” he said. “This is a revenue-producing operation for the City of Fall River. It is not causing any difficulty anywhere. It's actually putting Fall River in a good light."


In response, Council Member Cadime spoke on other issues motivating his reasoning for some type of cap on cannabis retailers.


"I think something that we are aware of but ignore is the money being given to the administration by these marijuana companies for the licenses and the kickback they're receiving in order to issue these licenses,” he said. “This is an issue”


Cadime told council this has been ignored in the continuous cannabis conversation.


“The only way for us to put a stop to it is to put a cap on the number of licenses that we have,” he said. “It's an unfortunate situation but it's the reality of the situation. We can continue to turn a blind eye but sooner or later we'll start to see additional charges come down on individuals receiving money for these licenses.”


He continued. “We'll all be sitting here saying we should have put a cap on it to eliminate the exposure. To say that there is no issues is a lie at this point or misleading the public."


Council Member Stephen Long doubts the demand will even be there for nearly a dozen retailers.


"I find it hard to believe that we'll even have 11 licenses in the City of Fall River,” he said. “I think we're well within a reasonable range. If, in the next two or six months all 11 licenses get granted, then maybe we should take a second look and say maybe we need more but as of now I find it hard to believe."


The second reading and enrollment of a potential cap of 11 locations could happen in council later this Summer.

A Conversation With City Council President Cliff Ponte

Fall River City Council President spoke with WSAR News on a plethora of topics, including talks of the elimination of the CSO fee in the city.


Mayor Jasiel Correia II has made it known this summer he would like to eliminate the quarterly storm water fee, indicating cannabis sales and various forms of digital advertising would be enough to replace the $5.9 million in the current fiscal year 2020 municipal budget. 


If a fee is jettisoned, Ponte told WSAR there needs to be revenue to replace what the fee would have earned.


"Everybody wants to see fees eliminated and reduced for our taxpayers" he said. "We would like to see if we can increase revenues without cost to the taxpayers. That's something every politician - every local mayor, city councilor, state rep or any public official tries to do for their constituents and taxpayers."


Fall River's current council president referenced this topic as a political subject that pops up around election time. 


"Eliminating the storm water fee has been a political thing to talk about during campaigns but we need to be sure if we do eliminate a tax or a fee, we do it in a way that doesn't jeopardize the taxpayer another way," Ponte said. "You don't want to eliminate the storm water fee and find your water rates increasing in the same breath, too."


Ponte referenced the ten dollar per household fee elimination as an example of there being a plan to replace that money.


"We have to be cognizant and aware," he said. "If we want to eliminate fees like the city council did in my first term when we got rid of the ten dollar trash fee. That was something I advocate for and was successfully able to accomplish as a city councilor and chair of the ordinance committee at that time. We did it in a way that made financial sense to do so."


The city council president told WSAR various city owned outdoor digital billboards are also a work in progress and could help increase revenue. 

Deadline To Hand In Nomination Packets For Elected Office In Fall River - Friday July 12, 5:00 p.m

The final deadline for securing nomination packets to run for elective office in Fall River is now closed and the chase is on to secure signatures in the race for the nine City Council seats and six School Committee spots.


Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II has turned in his nomination papers, according to The Fall River Herald News. He will face a pair of challengers who will constitute a September Preliminary Election for Mayor. 


Those two are current School Committee member and recall election runner-up Paul Coogan as well as community activist Erica Scott-Pacheco who also ran against Mayor Correia in March’s Recall Election. 


Coogan will have to leave his seat behind on the school committee while current City Council Member Derek Viveiros is not running for re-election. 


There are currently six contenders for Fall River City Council with a guaranteed slot on a potential September Preliminary Ballot. That includes current City Council President Cliff Ponte, along with incumbents Leo Pelletier and Joe Camara.


Former City Council President and Mayoral Challenger Linda Perreria as well as challengers Michelle Dionne, Christopher Peckham and Matthew Springer will also guaranteed a preliminary spot. 


Dionne indicated to WSAR News in the Spring if elected to council, she would vacate her seat on the Fall River Redevelopment Authority. 


Incumbent Shawn Cadime continues to collect his signatures while potential challenger Colin Dias has indicated to WSAR he will turn in his nomination packet before Fridays 5 p.m deadline. 


Five challengers and two incumbents, Stephen Long and Pam La-Liberte Lebeau have until the deadline on Friday to return their nomination paperwork.

New Proposed Ordinance Limiting The Number Of Cannabis Dispensaries to 11

At Monday night’s session of Fall River City Council’s Committee on Ordinances and Legislation by a vote of 3-2 the committee agreed to send a proposed ordinance to the full council limiting the number of cannabis facilities in Fall River to 11.


As of now, the Correia Administration has 11 letters of non-opposition issued to prospective firms trying to secure a license to operate from the Commonwealth’s Cannabis Control Commission. 


Three licenses have been awarded in the city, yet only Northeast Alternatives is allowed to sell cannabis recreationally.


City Council Member Shawn Cadime offered a final amendment allowing the number of cannabis licenses to increase if the number of off-premise liquor licenses went up.


"I want to put in there that the maximum number of recreational marijuana licenses available at one time in the city of Fall River will be limited to twenty percent of off-premise liquor licenses or eleven, whichever number is greater.”


Cadime explains this prepares them if an unforeseen circumstance pops up.


“The reason I want to throw the twenty percent in there is if, for whatever reason, the population changes and then our off-premise liquor licenses are higher and we're awarded more licenses, I don't want to constantly have to come back down,” he said. “I want to be able to capture both so it's automatic we obtain that twenty percent."


Corporation Counsel Joseph Macy remained neutral in the debate. 


"Just so we're clear, I have never taken a position if the city can only issue eight licenses,” he said. “I've been very clear that the city could not reduce the number they issue below eight and if they wanted to restrict it above that number, they could."


Fall River-Based Attorney and Former Fall River Mayor Will Flangan warned the committee of the potential revenue the city could miss out on because of this cap. 


"By limiting yourself, you're doing just that - you're limiting yourself,” he explained. “From a capitalistic standpoint or from a business standpoint you're making the determination that this is the market and this is what we're able to bring.”


The Former Mayor spoke on how difficult it is to get into this industry at this time. 


“This is a high barrier of entry,” Flangan said. “Not many people have 3 to 5 million dollars to open a dispensary check. Plus, you have to pass a background and assets check."


The full Nine-Member City Council will take up this question later this month. 

Nearly 900 Massachusetts Driver Licenses Suspended

Almost 900 Massachusetts drivers whose out-of-state traffic infractions had previously been overlooked have now had their licenses suspended in the aftermath of the deadly motorcycle crash in New Hampshire last month.


A 23-year old truck driver, Volodymyr Zhokoskyy crossed a double-yellow line and collided with a group of bikers and killed seven members of Marine Jarheads MC, a motorcycle club that includes former and active marines as well as their spouses. They were on their way to a nearby Veterans fundraiser.


Zhokoskyy is of West Springfield, Mass. and received a drunk-driving charge on May 11 in Connecticut. It should have instantly terminated his commercial drivers license. Officials say the Massachusetts RMV was notified but because of the way the systems are programed it was not processed correctly.


Lawmakers and administrators on Beacon Hill are watching as the Baker Administration and the RMV in the Commonwealth gather information as to why the documents from out-of-state were never taken care of the right way.


"It's egregious,” Bristol 6th District State Representative Carole Fiola told WSAR. “It's unacceptable. This is horrific what happened to the families of those who lost their lives in this accident."


Fiola said lawmakers in the Commonwealth are preparing to act once the investigation has concluded.


"There is an investigation underway right now,” she said. “We need answers. We need to know what actions need to be taken, if any. We're prepared."


State rep Fiola said that human error was at the core of the issues involved 


"How could this have possibly happened?” she asked. “How are people driving that should not be driving? Lives were lost because human error. There were employees who were supposed to be doing this work of insuring people who were not supposed to be driving and who are dangers on the road, were driving. So, we need answers."


The suspensions that should have been issued starting in 2018 have now been processed  . There remain questions about information that may not have been taken care of between 2001 and 2017


"We're going to have answers soon and we'll do whatever we need to at that point once we have the information," Fiola told WSAR.

The Trial Of Jasiel F. Correia II Is Set - February 24, 2020

The trial of Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II has been set for February 24, 2020. 


Mayor Correia was arrested on October 11 last year and charged with defrauding investors and using the money to fund what U.S Attorney Andrew Lelling terms as a “lavish lifestyle and burgeoning politcal career.”


The investment was for an app created by Correia called SnoOwl where he is alleged to have used $231,447 of the $363,690 he received from the seven lenders for personal airfare, luxury hotels, adult entertainment, dating services, designer clothes and a Mercedes.


A pre-trial conference this week that lasted all of five minutes at the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston featured Correia’s defense-team minus the Fall River Mayor. The date was agreed to by both sides.


Somerset-based Attorney Steve Sabra, the host of Law Talk on WSAR, explained what to expect from both sides in the coming eight months.


"There was maybe 18,000 pages of discovery,” he said. “So, now you have to narrow it down and decide what you'll use for your case and what you won't. Both sides will also have to figure out what witnesses they'll present. From the prosecution standpoint, they have to decide what witnesses they'll use to prove each element of each charge beyond a reasonable doubt.”


On the defense’s side they may not use any witnesses in their case. 


“The defense has to decide how they will cross-examine each of the witnesses,” Sabra explained. “They'll also decide what documents they may want to use in support of their theory of the case and ultimately who they will use as witnesses, if anyone."


The Somerset-based attorney said he was surprised by the timing of this trial date. 


"I did expect it to be a bit sooner,” Sabra told WSAR. “My thought process was that it would be before the end of the year. My basis for thinking that was because the arraignment was in October of 2018. I would think they would generally want to try the case within a year of arraignment.” 


Sabra went on to explain another reason why he didn’t expect to see a trial date in 2020.


“I also noted that they excluded some of the time under the calculations for a speedy trial,” he said. “In other words, there are rules of a case having to be brought to trial in a certain period of time. But they can also consider part of the time that a case as pending as excludable time. They did that in this case."


Mayor Correia has pulled nomination papers to run for re-election and a third term as the mayor of Fall River. WSAR asked Sabra how the timing of the case would play a role in the upcoming election process


"In a way, he is fortunate because the trial won't be until the end of February and the election is at the beginning of November,” he responded “He won't have that distraction and the necessity to heavily prepare in lets say October or early November.”


Sabra did say at the end of his response he expects it to still be a distraction as well as an issue for voters and even his opponents. 


Correia’s defense team will have until August 9 to file any motions while the government will have until August 30 to respond. 

Cathy Ann Viveiros & Last Week's Budget Hearings

Last week, the Fall River Municipal Budget was passed.


One of the largest single increases from last year’s budget to this year’s is over the concern of e-mail software and servers that are being secured to allow for the retention of emails, complying with Commonwealth statute.


The City Administrator, Cathy Ann Viveiros told council during last week’s series of budget hearings new platforms for the servers would have to be secured.


"We're in the process of still trying to determine the police department's ability to be compliant with the public records statute,” she said. “There's a possibility that all of the police patrol are going to have to migrate to a more expensive platform which would be the Exchange Platform.”


Viveiros explained it’s necessary even if it seems costly.


“It allows for complete maintenance of all the former e-mails generated,” she told the council. “The estimate for that is almost $50,000 for just one single department.”  


The final line item number for public school transportation will be revealed later this Summer, as the city works with various providers to strike their $9.3 million goal, down from the original figure of over $11 million.


Fall River’s City Administrator also discussed the addition of over 60 positions on the school department side as well as one that won’t be added on the municipal side.


“Last year, I had under other personal services an anticipated creation of a tourism director,” Viveiros explained. "That position was not approved in ordinance so it is not apart of this year’s budget.”


A new grant writer position who will work for both the municipal and school department sides will likely be filled at some point this upcoming Summer.  

A Potential Salary Hike For Elected Officials In Fall River

At this weeks series of budget hearings the idea of a salary hike for various elected officials in Fall River was suggested. City Council Member Steve Camara proposed to enact it for the 2020 members next year.


"Another thing of concern to me is the rather meager pay we give our elected officials, particularly school committee members, city councilors and the mayor,” Camara pointed out. “I know that my colleague in seat two thought we should have a sentiment of the council as to whether or not we'd like to see this addressed.”


The city councilor made sure to note this was not a premeditated proposal.


“We reviewed the charter during the break and found that the council has the authority to rescind the freeze but it has to be done within the first 18 months,” Camara said. “Some would think this has been orchestrated but clearly there wasn't because none of us realized what time frame was."


Council Member Shawn Cadime added on to Camara’s point and explained that he’s in favor of the motion because he believes the mayors salary at the present is not enough for that position in the city.


"The reason I'm going to support this is more for the mayor's position,” he said. :When we look at the challenges we have to get people to run for the office of mayor, that position pays $118,000 and not take anything away but the town administrator is making close to $25,000 more.”


Councilor Cadime continued to explain it’s not about the position of town administrator or the duties involved but instead the allure of the position of mayor and how attractive it would be to those with credible business backgrounds


“I understand the town administrator does more of the day-to-day functions with the departments,” he said. “When we start looking at the complexity of the city and you start looking at CEO's in charge of those types of budgets of millions of dollars, you won't get anyone with any type of business background or real credentials to come in and take the 24/7 job requirements at a salary of $118,000."


The motion ultimately passed by a 6-3 margin with Council President Cliff Ponte along with Councilors Leo Pelletier and Joseph Camara rejecting it.

Steve Camara Talks Cannabis Revenue

During this week of budget hearings in Fall River, the topic of revenue has been discussed and debated as much as anything else with the nine-member city council.


A discussion between council member Steve Camara and Chief Financial Officer Mary Sahady pointed out how cannabis dollars has balanced the numbers.


"The point is that the cash cow of this budget is cannabis..." Camara observed.


"That's correct, in terms of local dollars received," Sahady replied.


Camara told his fellow council members, "as we progress towards making decisions we need to be reminded this is what the people voted for - to legalize marijuana."


A resolution to limit the number of locations that dispense cannabis to eight still exists. Camara doesn’t believe this is necessary.


"I know the council is reviewing and considering putting a false cap on the distribution of licenses,” he said. “I think, unless there's a problem, lets not find a solution to a problem that does not exist."


The council member said cannabis is providing the necessary revenue to replace what was lost when the Pay-As-You-Throw Program was terminated earlier in 2019.


"I encourage you to send back an opportunity for us to increase our budget through revenue that's now available to us," he asked.


The $2.3 million in lost revenue when the Pay-As-You-Throw Era ended is being replaced in part by nearly $2 million in cannabis impact fees.


The market remains wide open in this part of New England as Rhode Island lawmakers have already decided to not legalize cannabis for at least another year while New York and Connecticut refuse to legalize.


There is no law against purchasing recreational cannabis with an out-of-state ID though it is still illegal under federal law to transport the drug across state lines.

Budget Hearings Commenced This Week

Budget hearings commenced Tuesday evening in Government Center and will continue throughout the week.


It’s likely a budget at 101% of net school spending will be approved by the Fall River City Council.


Chief Operating Officer Ken Pacheco discussed the lack of transportation contracts with the nine members and was asked this by Council Vice President Pam La-Libertie Lebeau.


"As for the transportation, I know we rescinded and just went out for a new bid. Do you know when we'll have those answers?"


Pacheco responded, "The bids will be due July 11th, if I'm not mistaken."


"Are we in any danger of not being ready for the beginning of the school year?" Lebeau inquired.


"If that schedule stays as is we're looking to have all awards in hand for August 1 after we do our due diligence and following the process of getting contract signatures. We're looking at August 1st," Pacheco answered.


At a charter-mandated session earlier in the year a placeholder number of $11.9 million for transportation costs was discussed. That figure was whittled down to $10.1 million but the city would like to see it closer to $9.3 million in fiscal year 2020.


In other news from the first budget hearing, Superintendent of Fall River Public Schools Doctor Matthew Malone indicated the district observed an important milestone over the Spring.


"We've tripled secondary language learners in three years,” he told the City Council. “The list, last week, was the first time in Fall River Public School history that we're now a majority minority school system.”


Malone said the numbers were essentially reversed.


“We flipped from 52-48 to 48-52,” he explained. “The largest of our second language speakers are Latino with most coming from Puerto Rico. We are also receiving large numbers of kids from Central and South America, as well."


Dr. Malone continued on talking about the overall budget figure of $160,662,776 approved by the School Committee earlier in the Spring and how the Governor influences it.


"In my third year of doing this, I propose a budget based on the Governors numbers - not at 100% but 101% of net school spending,” he explained. “It's important we're above the minimum foundation to fund schools. Each year, we take the same path forwards based on the Governor's Budget."


Depending on the final budget that incorporates proposals from both the Massachusetts House and the Senate, that figure could become larger when the Massachusetts budget for fiscal year 2020 later this Summer.