Updated Tuesday at 10:45 p.m.
Embattled Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia says he intends to put his reelection campaign on hold and take a leave of absence from his position as mayor.
“Fall River must win, not just any one person,” Correia said at a press conference Tuesday. “That is why at this time, the city must have an opportunity to continue to thrive and build upon a solid foundation and framework without distraction.”
Correia said he plans to retain the title of mayor and the $119,000 annual salary until his term expires in January, but he'll be handing his powers and daily responsibilities over to City Council President Cliff Ponte until a new mayor is elected.
And though Correia said he would be spending his time “championing and supporting many of the impactful social programs [he has] established during [his] administration,” he vowed, at some point, to return.
“Today is not goodbye, it's far from it,” Correia said. “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, and I fully expect to lead this city on the rise once again in the future.”
Correia is facing 24 federal charges — including several from last year, after he allegedly defrauded investors in an app he created. Another set of federal charges from this year include extortion, bribery and tax fraud, after allegedly exchanging city permits for bribes and strong-arming marijuana vendors hoping to do business in Fall River.
Correia had previously refused to step down after members of the city council made multiple attempts to force him out. Last Thursday, a Bristol County Superior Court judge rejected a preliminary injunction filed by councilors in an effort to oust Correia.
The injunction followed a vote to remove Correia from office that was supported by Ponte and seven other members of Fall River City Council. They argued that Correia was “unable to serve” as mayor while facing federal charges.
Councilor Steven Camara was the lone “no” vote, saying at the time that he stood against the measure because he believes that the public should be the deciding party.
In a phone interview Monday, Camara said that Correia’s name will remain on the ballot, along with his challenger, Paul Coogan. Both men moved on to the Nov. 5 general election after garnering enough votes during the primary in September. Coogan received 62.3 percent of the vote and Correia had 20.9 percent.
Though he had a significant lead, Coogan says he won’t be letting up in his campaign efforts, in the case that a write-in, or “sticker” candidate should emerge.
“As a matter of fact, we’ll probably go a little bit harder,” Coogan said in an interview with NECN Tuesday, “because if one of these people decides they want to run on stickers, one of his supporters, then we have to make sure that the voters know that the best decision for the future forward is us.”