WSAR NEWS

Fall River's Acting Mayor Discusses Cannabis In The City

The Acting Fall River Mayor Cliff Ponte has told WSAR he will not be signing any additional letters of non-opposition or host agreements for potential cannabis retailers.

 

The Cannabis Control Commission and members of the Massachusetts House would like to look at what has happened in the city of Fall River after the soon-to-be former Mayor Jasiel Correia II was charged with 11 additional counts of extortion and aiding and abetting extortion regarding at least five different holders.

 

Ponte talked about any potential role he will have in this process.

 

"I haven't had those discussions yet,” he said. “That file is with Corporation Counsel. He has the experience and the wherewithal and the research that his team is doing to respond to the Cannabis Control Commission. I'm not going to be signing any letters of non-opposition or any of that stuff."

 

The Acting Mayor said the City Council’s Vice President has been working on a proposal that would follow a method used in New Bedford.

 

"I know Council Vice President (Pam Lalibirte) LeBeau has been working with me more on a one-on-one basis to develop an ordinance that New Bedford has where they kind of have an oversight committee that these marijuana companies go to and deliver a presentation,” Ponte said. “It goes before that oversight committee, then the planning board and then the city council."

 

Though Ponte says he will not be involved in signing letters of non-opposition or host agreements, the Acting Mayor says discussions still need to be had. 

 

"Unfortunately, we were kind of late to the game,” he said. “I think we need to start having those discussions. I'm sure Councilor LeBeau, who has been working with me as council leadership for the last couple of years and at least most recently the last couple of weeks, will. With respect to this, I think that's important but that's where I'm at and where we're at as a community."

Somerset And The Issues At Brayton Point

The relationship between the town of Somerset and the current owners of the Brayton Point Power Plant site has been strained this Fall.

 

According to selectmen member Holly McNamara, St. Louis-based C.D.C has been less than forthcoming about their plans for demolition as well as other pieces of information.

 

McNamara told WSAR News there were issues leading up to the demolition of the cooling towers earlier this year. 

 

She also told us about an unplanned demolition that took place over the Summer and how the town is attempting to try to maintain open and truthful discussions.

 

"C.D.C took ownership of not informing us,” she said. “We gave them a hard time. From the get-go, we've been pushing for open and honest communication so we can especially communicate to the residents what's going on. That has not been the case, whatsoever."

 

McNamara explained the situation that happened in the late Summer at the site in which the town was not aware of.

 

"The town administrator put out a letter on behalf of the building and fire departments, as well as my board,” she said. “Back in August, there was a loud boom and a smoke cloud. No one was aware of why there would be either of those things. No one called it in.” 

 

The Somerset selectmen member continued, “The fire department took it upon themselves to go down there with the building department and the inspector. They discovered, at the time, they had demolished an additional portion of the building out-of-permit."

 

The unplanned demolition led to a fire. 

 

"There was a fire because of the demo,” McNamara said. “That was a huge problem. They put them through the process of getting a permit for demolition. It was a completely different company that did the cooling towers. Whoever this company was thought they could do whatever they wanted."

 

A series of fires at the Brayton Point site has halted further demolition efforts as the C.D.C has been asked to solve water pressure problems and install more hydrants.

Correia Takes Leave Of Absence From Office Of Mayor

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II confirmed at a media event on Tuesday at the construction site of the new B.M.C Durfee High School that he will be stepping away from his duties as mayor as well as suspending his campaign for a third full term.

 

"I'm here today to officially announce my decision to forgo my campaign for re-election as Mayor of Fall River and take a temporary absence from my responsibilities as the mayor of the city,” Correia said. “Those duties will now be handled by the City Council President.” 

 

Correia did not elaborate on what a leave of absence actually means and if he has plans to return to office in the final weeks of his term. 

 

“I will continue as mayor until January 1st, 2020,” Correia continued. “I will focus the remaining time and my attention on championing and supporting many of the impactful social programs that I have established during my administration."

 

City Council President Cliff Ponte is now the acting mayor of the city of Fall River. Correia sent Ponte a letter on Tuesday indicating at 4:00 p.m on that same day he would relinquish his powers of office. 

 

Within the letter, Correia invoked section 3-8 of the city charter, telling Ponte that Correia would be “temporarily absent” from his position as mayor and for an “indefinite period” prior to the second day of next year.

 

In closing, Correia said administrative staff are to cooperate and assist Ponte in any way necessary. He ended the letter with four words for Ponte - “with all good wishes.”

 

Ponte was on with former mayor Will Flanagan on WSAR on the same Tuesday and talked about the transitional process of becoming acting mayor. 

 

"This afternoon (Tuesday afternoon), I did have a pretty lengthy meeting with Jasiel, as well as Corporation Counsel,” Ponte said. “The City Clerk was present at that meeting, as well. It happened in the City Law Department. We had a very good meeting, a transitional meeting per say. It was very professional and cordial.” 

 

The city council president and now acting mayor of Fall River told Flangan that Correia worked with him as much as possible.

 

“Jasiel was very forthcoming with information with things that are in the works and what the administration and finance team are working on,” he said. “He made himself available to me at any point in time that I need to reach out and ask him a question."

 

When asked about “The People’s Tahoe,” the vehicle Correia used in his tenor as mayor, Ponte said the keys to the vehicle are in possession of the city’s police chief.

 

Ponte said ultimately he just wants to bring stability back to Fall River. 

 

"I'm here and I'm reachable,” he said. “I am not doing this in any way, shape or form with any additional pay. The only pay I'll continue to receive is my city council salary. I'm not asking for additional money.”

 

Ponte said Correia continuing to receive a salary is not his issue at this moment. 

 

“I know the mayor keeping his salary is a concern to some but that isn't my fight at this point,” he claimed. “I just want to calm things down. I want to bring some stability to the office of mayor and city government itself."

 

Fall River City Clerk Alison Bouchard confirmed to WSAR that Ponte will not have to be sworn in. He will become the first acting mayor since Bill Whitey replaced Ed Lambert back in 2007.

 

The preliminary winner in September, however, continues his campaign. In a conversation with WSAR,  School Committee member Paul Coogan thinks Correia should have resigned not just take a leave of absence.

 

"Nothing is simple with Jasiel,” he said. “I think it would have been better if he just resigned. He left the door open with the temporary leave until January 1 and all those things. I think he has far bigger problems than being mayor in Fall River. He should have focused, full-time, working on those things."

 

The 3rd place finisher in September’s preliminary released a statement on Tuesday in regards to this situation. Erica Scott-Pacheco indicated that while supporters are free to write her in for mayor, she will be run as a write-in contender.

 

She said it was “shameful” that he did not remove his name from the November ballot prior to the September 23 deadline, depring Fall River voters from having a legitimate choice on their ballot.

 

Correia took no questions from reporters at the event. He also did not mention his 24 count federal indictment, his February trial next year, or his plans for future employment. Looking for work or being employed is a condition of his agreement with federal prosecutors that allows him to remain a free man.

 

The now-former mayor did say his leave would likely be a temporary one. 

 

"I will never waiver in my commitment to the people of Fall River,” Correia claimed. “Today is not good-bye. It's far from it. Whether serving in an official capacity as an elected official, or not, I will continue to fight every day to improve the lives of every resident of the great city of Fall River. I fully expect to lead this city on the rise once again in the future. Let's make it here."

Congressman Kennedy Talks Impeachment Inquiry Into President Trump

Massachusetts Fourth District Congressman Joseph Kennedy III was in Fall River Friday morning delivering an address to a symposium tasked with finding solutions to the issue of poverty and income imbalance in the Commonwealth.

 

In a conversation with the Congressman, WSAR asked about his thoughts and reactions to the ongoing impeachment process aimed at President Trump. He first addressed the public comments the President made about China

 

"The President's own statements and actions in broad daylight, in public, I believe constitute an impeachable offense,” Kennedy said. “Asking a foreign nation, in this case China, on live television to investigate a political rival for his own gain is illegal, unconscionable and never should have happened in the first place."

 

The Commonwealth Representative also talked about the whistleblower complaint in Ukraine.

 

"The call that raised these concerns took place the day after Director Mueller testified on Capitol Hill about the findings of his report," he said. “So now you got three concrete countries, let alone multiple instances where the President has asked from foreign nations to interfere on our democracy and our electoral process."

 

The process is still underway, says Kennedy. They are currently in the phase of attaining all of the information possible. 

 

"When it comes to the underlying issues alleged in the current series of circumstances around Ukraine and China, the House needs to get as much information as we possibly can so you're able to relate to the American public exactly what happened," Kennedy said.

 

The Congressman is currently in the midst of a senate campaign for the Democratic Nomination in 2020 as he tries to unseat current Junior Democratic Senator Ed Markey.

New Swansea Mall Site Updates

Richard Anagost of the Anagost Company joined Chris Carreiro on WSAR Wednesday afternoon to speak on their complex proposal for the the now Swansea Mall-area.

 

Over time the components of the space be re-developed beginning with the former Apex site.

 

"We’re envisioning a lifestyle-center,” Anagost said. “It will have experiential retail. It will have a residential component. It will have a storage component. It will have an office component which is what we're working on right now.”

 

The storage component will take up the former Apex space.

 

“We're going to propose approximately 100,000 square feet where the old Apex portion was to be storage units,” Anagost said “It will be climate-controlled with about 800 units. We're redoing the entire building all the way around."

 

The head of the New Hampshire-based developer laid out the phases of the process which are currently under negotiation. Part of the initial proposal is market-rate apartments.

 

"Phase 1-C will be 110,000 square feet of retail shops,” he said. “Some of them were there. Some of them we're currently negotiating.”

 

Obviously, before C comes B, says Anagost.

 

“They'll be a Phase 1-B,” he said. “That will consist of 144 apartments - two 72-unit buildings. One of them has parking under while the other has parking on the side. They'll be approximately 16 one-bedroom units, 96 two-bedroom units and  32 three-bedroom units.”

 

He continued, “Those will all be at market-rate. There is no affordable housing proposed in this project."

 

Artist renderings of the ideas being circulated will be made available;e likely by the end of the week. They will be e-mailed to various stakeholders who have asked for potential visuals. 

 

While rezoning will have to be approved, developers can continue to roll out various phases of how they envision the complex to take shape.

Cadime Wants To Improve Capital Improvement Plan

In a series of exclusive interviews with all of the Fall River City Council finalists appearing on the November 5 ballot, Will Flanagan will dedicate thirty minutes to each contender on his program on WSAR.

 

Incumbent Councilor Shawn Cadime was up first on Monday and Flanagan first asked what the most important thing for him is as a city councilor. 

 

"Holding people accountable is the biggest thing for me,” he said. “I think I get a lot of grief from people who want to label me as an obstructionist. My stance has always been that I'm not afraid to say what I truly feel and what I think is right for the city.”

 

Cadime said he won’t do or say anything to just move things along.

 

“Sometimes, a lot of people just want to approve things to get along because that's how they feel you work within an administration,” the incumbent said. “I, for one, just want to speak up on items that are either not appropriate or wasn't in the best interest of the city."

 

Cadime went on to say he works with his peers even if he doesn’t agree with their views. 

 

"I work closely with my colleagues to try to assist them with any ideas that they may have even if I don't necessarily agree with them.” he said. “Behind the scenes, I just try to give them the information they need or point them in the right direction of where to go so they can find out the information they need to find out in order to lobby for their constituents and what their beliefs are."

 

One subject the city council member said needs improvement is the capital improvement plan. 

                      

"We haven't addressed capital improvement,” Cadime said. “Our capital improvement plan only includes the Department of Public Works, the Police Department and the Fire Department, as well as some buildings.” 

 

He went on to say its a limited plan.

 

“We have no capital planning for the school department,” Cadime claimed. “We don't see it for the other departments in the city and I think that's just some of the things we need to do a little bit better."

 

The general election in Fall River will be on Tuesday November 5th.

A Conversation With Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman

As the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission continues to sort through the situation in the city of Fall River where the licensure process has come to a halt, other wide-ranging issues continue to remain as hurdles on the cannabis industry’s path. 

 

WSAR news spoke with the Chairman of the Commission in the wake of the licensing process coming to a stand-still. He told us that a major goal for the entire industry right now, especially in the Commonwealth, is to eventually be apart of various chambers of commerce and accepted as doing legitimate business.

 

"I talked to a lot of chambers of commerce,” Steven Hoffman said. “What I say is that 'I'd like to come back here in the not-too-distant-future and see in this room people that are running licensed marijuana establishments sitting at the table next to each of you.' Because what I hope and want to see happen is that this is a normal business over time and viewed as an asset to the communities in which they operate. It generates jobs and tax revenues. I want them to be good neighbors." 

 

Another legitimate business aspect Hoffman said he’d like to see this industry make its way into is the right to use banks and banking services.

                

"There's lots of legislation being considered right now on the federal level,” he said. “I'm hopeful that it's going to happen but until then we have no choice but to do our job under the state law.”

 

He continued, “And what I think part of what our job is to try and help more banks come into this industry to provide at least cash management services from a public safety perspective."

The Cannabis Control Commission Responds...

In a letter released by the Cannabis Control Commission this week, Corporation Counsel Joseph Macy was informed that as of mid-September they received applications for licensure as an adult-use cannabis establishment from two entities. The letter was dated for September 19 of this year.

 

The Commission indicated that marijuana establishment licenses were issued to four entities while seven medical treatment center licenses have been granted.

 

They asked in the letter a recertification process commence, with Macy to determine if each applicant was in compliance with local permits, rules, regulations and ordinances. 

 

Northeast Alternatives is the only recreational cannabis dispensary in operation in the city while two medicinal locations are open - Hope Heal and Health and Nature’s Medicines. Provisional licenses were given to those two as well as Greener Leaf.

 

This will also include the 14 holders of letters of non-opposition and host agreements, five of which were part of the superseding indictment involving Fall River Jasiel Correia II, unsealed by prosecutors last month. 

 

The Vice President of the City Council Pam Laliberte-Lebeau asked Macy to hold off on any recertification asking corporation counsel to ask the commission for more time if needed to allow for the council to discuss with Macy in a public forum. 

 

The Bristol delegation was also informed of this, also. Bristol Sixth District State Representative Carole Fiola noted the required public meetings with residents happened in the majority of cases after host agreements were already signed. She asked that the various letters be added to the council packed on October 8 and that Macy be there to answer questions of council members. 

 

"There was no way for them to have any valid input because it was after the host community agreement,” she said. “One of the regulations I discussed with the chairman and he appears to really agree - that a public meeting must be held prior to issuing that host community agreement."

 

Fiola said she wants a future Cannabis Control Commission meeting in Fall River to happen soon.

D.P.H New Vaping Numbers

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is reporting that 5 additional cases of vaping-associated pulmonary injury with two confirmed and three probable--to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bringing the statewide total of reported cases to 10.

 

5 of the cases are confirmed and 5 are considered probable for the CDC’s criteria.

 

At least 83 suspected vaping related pulmonary cases have been reported to the DPH since September 11.

 

Among the 10 cases that are considered confirmed or probable, most patients are under 20, or between 40 and 49.

 

7 of the 10 Massachusetts cases are women, with 8 of 10 requiring hospitalization.

 

The bulk of the cases involving vaping nicotine and THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

 

More than two-thirds of patients nationally are male, with a median age of 23 years of age, with more than 60% of patients between the ages of 18-34; Many used a product with THC.

 

No single product has been linked to all cases of lung injury.

Joshua Hetzler VS. The City Of Fall River

Fall River Fire Department Lieutenant and School Committee Member Joshua Hetzler has filed a complaint for injunctive relief, permanent relief and jury demand against the city of Fall River.

 

Hetzler believes the city's newly enacted charter violates his rights under the first amendment to serve on the school committee.

 

A provision in the new charter prohibits a school committee member or any other elected official from holding any compensated city position would include Hetzler as a firefighter.

 

Corporation Counsel Joseph Macy issued an opinion of November of 2017 that Hetzlers term as a member of the school committee was governed by the previous charter and he would be able to serve it out.

 

Back in June, Macy issued another opinion saying if Hetzler ran and was re-elected in November he would have to choose between the two positions. 

 

WSAR News spoke with Hetzler about this issue.

 

"This country was founded on a principle that you can elect anyone and anyone can serve and no have to give up their livelihood," he said. "Especially for a position such as school committee which is part-time. If it was two full-time positions I could see the conflict of interest - I can't be the mayor and fire fighter at the same time, right. But when it comes part-time I don't think there’s any issue in serving in both capacities."

 

The first hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction is set for October 3 at 3:00 p.m in courtroom 13 before District Judge Leo Dorokin in the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston

 

"Hopefully they can come to some decisions soon," Hetzler said. "Obviously, I want it to be in my favor. We'll see what the city decides to do. If a preliminary injunction is ruled in my favor maybe the city says were not going to fight this and allow me to serve."

 

Hetzler believes since the school committee position is non-partisan there should be no conflict of interest.

 

"Sometimes I believe they say, if a government has an interest in it if its partisan," he claimed. "So, in Fall River where city council and school committee are non-partisan that has no weight. In that light, it furthers my argument. There's no conflict of interest and no reason why I shouldn’t serve."

Mayor's Veto Overturned

At the most recent Fall River City Council session, the seven members in attendance voted six to one, to overturn the Mayor's veto on a proposed ordinance which would have capped the number of recreational marijuana dispensaries to 11.   The lone dissenting vote was Councilor Steven Camara.  Steve Long was absent, and Council President Cliff Ponte did not participate in the vote due to pending litigation which could place him in the Mayor's office temporarily.

 

The council and the entire city is awaiting the decisions of the Cannabis Control Commission on if and how many of the original 14 letters of non-opposition and host agreements which were handed out by the Correia Administration will be allowed to proceed.

 

Council member Shawn Cadime said he would support the override, and would favor the Council having a role in awarding Non-Opposition Letters and Host Agreements in the future, as have selectmen in various suburban communities.

 

Cadime explained to those gathered how the process is handled in Seekonk and why he shouldn’t have to recuse himself as an administrator of that town. 

 

"The last paragraph, which was really directed towards me, saying that serving as an administrator in another community I should have recused myself - number one, I shouldn't recuse myself, I have no financial gain,” he said. 

 

He continued, “and number two, the town of Seekonk has already issued two licenses and were trying to do exactly what the city of Fall River is doing - limiting it to the twenty percent. So, that statement is inaccurate."

 

Cadime claims this move is not a disadvantage to the city but the actions of the mayor have been. 

 

"I for one am not disadvantaging the city,” he said. “I did not take any kickbacks. I think that’s a disadvantage to the city. We’re starting to see the commission take hard look at all the host agreements that were issued."

 

Councillor Leo Pelletier the originator of this proposal to cap cannabis dispensaries still believes 8 was the right way to go.

 

"The city doesn't need more than eight,” he stated. “What happened in the city of Fall River is that the greed set in and it's a mess. If my colleagues would like to send a letter to the commission and say that we don't honor the other six. Are we obligated to help these guys out and make sure they get a store up? Anybody who gave any money should get nothing at all. I don't care if there in business now or not in business, they should be shut right down."

 

Councillor Brad Kilby echoed the sentiment of Cadime in that the mayor not the council is the one who has put this city in this predicament.

 

"His actions, not our actions - his actions have put the spotlight for marijuana companies in Fall River,” he said. “It's not the council."

A Conversation With Carole Fiola

WSAR News had a conversation with one of the delegation leaders in the city of Fall River. 

 

Bristol Sixth District State Representative Carole Fiola discussed the ongoing issues emanating from the Government Center’s 6th Floor. 

 

Fiola told WSAR the constant situation undermines, to some degree, how Fall River is perceived not only on Beacon Hill but elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

 

“People try to be respectful,” she said. “They don’t want to put salt in our wounds too much. But every meeting I have been in for for pretty much a year - and most of my colleagues would attest to as well, there’s a real elephant in the room no matter which agency we’re meeting with.”

 

Fiola claim Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and other state leaders know exactly whats happening and have been observing from a distance. 

 

“You haven’t seen the Governor or Lieutenant Governor come visit as a community because there’s too much happening,” she said. “It’s not a positive time for our community.”

 

Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito did appear at the dedication for the Vietnam Wall Replica Ceremony in Fall River earlier this Summer. 

 

Fiola claims there is a dark cloud over Fall River due to the continuing legal struggles of Mayor Jasiel Correia II. 

 

“It is the dark cloud,” she said. “It is affecting us. Things are not coming our way, the way they should be while the economy is the best it has been in recent recollection, to me, there could be even more happening.”

 

“I’m grateful to this community, the people and the business community pretty much holding things together.”

Mayor Correia Waives Right To Arraignment

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II has waived his right to an arraignment on a second superseding indictment issued earlier in the month.

 

In a document filed today, Correia says he has read the indictment and discussed it with Brockton-based Defense Attorney Kevin Reddington. He has entered an official plea of not guilty to the 11 counts of bribery and aiding and abetting bribery.

 

Correia’s Former Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager Gen Andrade will be formally arraigned on October 2nd in the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston at 11:00 a.m.

 

Reddington and federal prosecutors will meet on October 16th for a status conference to see if more time will be needed for discover after the 11 count indictment.

 

Correia’s trial on 24 federal counts is set to start in late February next year.

Gen Andrade Set To Be Arraigned On October 2nd

A second superseding indictment was issued by federal prosecutors on Thursday in Boston.

 

Former Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager Gen Andrade has now been named in an indictment alleging she bribed Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II in order to keep her position as Chief of Staff.

 

Andrade now also faces a count of lying to federal investigators who interviewed her in Boston in December of last year. This was revealed from statements by ‘marijuana vendor #4.’

 

She has also told federal investigators that the $22,800 she allegedly gave Correia in order to maintain her position as Chief of Staff was a loan.

 

In total, Andrade faces six federal counts after making a pair of appearances in federal court. That includes September 6 when Correia was arrested for a second time, as her name is now attached with Correia’s on counts 20-23 involving extortion conspiracy and extortion aiding and abetting.

 

Andrade will be arraigned on October 2nd in the Moakley Federal Courthouse in the Seaport District in downtown Boston. It begins at 11 a.m in courtroom 23. 

Why Did Council President Cliff Ponte Not Run Wednesdays Executive Session?

Amid an ongoing debate over the status of Fall River City Council President Cliff Ponte, who is for an acting mayor-in-waiting pending the outcome of potential court proceedings, did not run the executive session of the nine-member council Wednesday night.

 

The remaining eight councilors were made available to discuss with Attorney Lauren Goldberg of Boston-based K.P Law to discuss strategy regarding a lawsuit after a decision earlier this month to invoke Article 3 Section 3-8 of the city charter regarding the temporary removal of the mayor.

 

Councilor Steve Camara questioned the status of Ponte within the council in a back-and-forth with Vice President Pam LaLiberte-Lebeau.

 

"At our last meeting when we took the vote to ask the mayor to step aside temporarily making the council president acting mayor therefore, he is not able to participate or vote in a council meeting," the council vice president claimed.

 

"So, is he no longer a member of the council?” Camara asked.

 

LaLiberte-Lebeau responded. "Temporarily, according to the charter."

 

Camara then sought the advice of the City Clerk, Allison Bouchard.

 

"Isn't there a provision in the charter that if one of the members of the council vacate the council that the next council in order of finish in the most previous election would then rise to the position of councilor?"

 

Bouchard responded leading to this exchange between the two.

 

"The president has not vacated his seat at this time."

 

"If he hasn’t vacated his seat, why isn't he presiding?"

 

"This is on a temporary basis that he is not participating in this meeting."

 

Councilor Shawn Cadime to clarify read from the portion of the charter regarding the issues under discussion.

 

"Obviously, this council voted at the last meeting to adopt section 3-8 which is the temporary absence of the mayor. We are essentially giving the temporary acting power to the council president. Section 3-8b specifically states and gives all pf the duties of the acting mayor including everything he can or cannot do.”

 

He continued. “In particular, it speaks to the fact that he has not vacated his seat as city council but the president or any other member serving as acting mayor pursuant to section 3-8c shall not act as member of the city council."

 

Cadime went on to explain the charter language regarding the status of the council president.

 

"Clearly, we've enacted section 3-8a and according to 3-8b, the city council president cannot act a member of the council, but he has not vacated it,” he said. “It's not an open position. He is still a member of the council. He doesn't have any voting rights until he relinquishes the acting mayor roll."

 

The Fall River Mayor and the City Council could be on a collision course that would be settled in a local court of law at some point this Fall over the interpretation of Article 3 Section 3-8.

It Will Be Coogan VS. Correia

The contenders are set for the November 5th Fall River Mayoral Race.

 

Incumbent Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II will square off against the leading vote-getter in the city’s preliminary race Tuesday - School Committee Member Paul Coogan.

 

Coogan, who lost narrowly to Correia in March’s Recall Race, amassed 62% of the total 13,310 votes. He won at every precinct in the city with 8,273 votes in total.

 

Speaking to his supporters at Scottie’s Pub Tuesday night, Coogan is already looking forward to the stretch ahead leading to November 5th.

 

“Tomorrow, we start a very tough campaign for the final election in November,” he said. “We are not going to change I need you and I humbly ask each of you to stay with me in the weeks ahead. We have work to do!”

 

Coogan went on to claim that Fall River is need of a leader they can trust.

 

“People rightfully deserve and demand better leadership, honesty and more openness from their mayor,” he said. “They deserve someone who is not in it for the power or the money but that they’re in it because they’re just like you and guess what? We have had enough in this city.”

 

The current Mayor finished second out of the three contenders securing 2,777 votes.

 

Mayor Correia understands why some people have changed their vote since the recall election back in March. 

 

“They’re scared of the unknown,” he claimed to a crowd of supporters at LePage’s Seafood in Westport. “They’ve been intimidated and have been told false information. I understand where they're at in their hearts and minds. They don't know what the future holds for Jasiel Correia. I can understand how that can be a scary thing 11 days after the situation that occured happened."

 

Correia knows he has quite the task ahead of him in the next less-than-seven weeks.

 

"We've got from now until November 5th to ask those voters who changed their vote to change it back to Jasiel Correia,” he exclaimed. “We have from now until November 5th to go to each and every debate, as many debates as there can be, to challenge Mr. Coogan on what his plan truly is because when he says he wants to take the city back he can only mean one direction - backwards."

 

The incumbent mayor says that he’ll allow any voter to ask whatever they want to know and he will give a straight answer.

 

"I'm going to shake your hand,” he said. “I'm going to look you in the eyes and allow you to ask me any question you want about anything you want. I'm going to tell you the truth. I'm going to give you the honest answers you deserve, you expect and have gotten every single day from this mayor."

 

Paul Coogan spoke of Fall River’s “forgotten people” following the news of last night’s victory at Scottie’s.

 

"Fall River's forgotten people - to the thousands of senior citizens who spent their lives working and building our city, you're important. Police, fire, EMTs - every day they go out and risk their lives for us, you're important. The parents who want nothing more than good schools and safe streets - you're important."

 

Coogan said he knows Fall River.

 

"I love this city and its people,” he said. “I understand them, I respect them and I share their values. I'll continue to do that. I said at the start that this city is about the people in it. I owe the people of Fall River a tremendous debt tonight."

 

The third contender from Tuesday’s preliminary was community activist Erica Scott-Pacheco. She rounded out the final spot falling just short of a historic upset over the incumbent securing just over 2,100 votes.

 

"I personally knocked on over 3400 doors,” she told WSAR Tuesday night following the results. “My team knocked on over 10,000 doors. I want to thank each and every person that we had a conversation with and listened to their concerns. In many ways, I'm just like you. I come from a working-class family. Everything I have and attained in life is through hard work."

 

The general election will be on Tuesday November 5 and feature this race as well as who will take the nine city council spots and six school committee seats.

Special City Council Meeting Set For Wednesday

The Fall River City Council has set a special meeting for Wednesday at 5:15 pm in second floor council chambers.  

 

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II returned to his sixth-floor office this morning prompting action from the council after he refused to adhere to their vote of temporary removal.

 

“My letter has indicated that since Mr. Correia has refused to comply with the council’s emergency vote he forced the council to take appropriate action, up to and including seeking enforcement of the order in court,” City Council President Cliff Ponte said.

 

It’s possible for the first time in over a decade the nine-member council will meet in executive session to discuss their legal options after invoking Article 3 Section 3-8 to attempt to remove Mayor Correia.

 

Ponte told New England media over the weekend Fall River needs a mayor they can trust.

 

“The office of mayor has immense power and a great deal of discretion,” the Council President said. “People need to trust the mayor and have confidence the mayor will act and make decisions that are in the best interest of this community.”

 

Depending on how, and when, a judge decides the issues involved in the dispute, Ponte could be acting mayor, or Correia could maintain his hold on the office at least through the end of the year.

 

“This is just the situation that will have to play out a day or so at a time,” Corporation Counsel Joseph Macy said. “Right now, I think everybody is acting professionally. I expect that to continue.”

 

Three mayoral contenders will try to secure one of two slots for November in Fall River tomorrow.

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.

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