FALL RIVER (CBS) — Embattled Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia announced Tuesday he will be taking a leave of absence and he will suspend his re-election campaign.
The president of City Council will take over mayoral duties but Correia will retain his title as mayor and his $119,000 salary through the end of his term in January.
“Today’s announcement provides the City of Fall River an opportunity to build on the successes and accomplishments of my administration without any distraction,” Correia said. “This announcement allows the voters, who will take to the polls, the chance to evaluate candidates on policy and platforms, not headlines.”
The 27-year-old mayor spent much of the speech explaining how his administration helped Fall River’s economy and gave the city financial stability.
Correia has been indicted twice in the last year and is facing 24 federal counts of extortion. In Oct. 2018, he was arrested for allegedly stealing investors’ money, meant for an app he developed called Sno Owl. Last month, the US Attorney indicted Correia again, this time saying the mayor extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from would-be marijuana retailers trying to set up businesses in Fall River.
As critics sought to remove him from office, the mayor fought for months to keep his job. Just last week, the court sided with Correia when a judge denied the City Council’s vote to remove him from office.
After Correia’s first arrest, Gov. Charlie Baker said he thought the mayor should “step aside” until the case was resolved. Correia continued to work, even campaigning so when he was recalled, he was re-elected by voters on the same night.
Following the latest allegations, the City Council had voted in favor of appointing Council President Cliff Ponte to temporarily replace Jasiel Correia as acting mayor. A judge ruled the city charter allows the council to remove a mayor who has been convicted of a felony, but not a mayor who has only been charged with one.
“I fully expect to lead this city on the rise once again in the future,” Correia concluded.
Correia did not mention any of the charges against him and has previously denied them.
“It’s a relief for everybody I think at this point that the distraction of having him in office will continue to have a black eye on this community which doesn’t deserve that,” said Ponte.
Paul Coogan, Correia’s main political rival said, “I think you have to worry about Jasiel Correia until January 1. “We have to work to make sure we are the alternative come November 5.