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."