WSAR NEWS Archives for 2019-08

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."