WSAR NEWS Archives for 2019-09

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.