FALL RIVER — In a pair of largely symbolic measures, the Fall River City Council Tuesday night overwhelmingly approved a no-confidence vote in Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II and requested his resignation. A third measure that would have removed Correia from office while his federal criminal case is pending failed by a 5-4 margin.
“It’s a ceremonial vote at best,” City Council President Cliff Ponte said of the no-confidence measure.
The nine-member council has been grappling for weeks with how to respond to the federal indictment against Correia, 26, who was arrested Oct. 11 on charges that he defrauded investors in his tech startup SnoOwl and then filed false tax returns to conceal the scheme.
The indictment said Correia spent the stolen money — more than $231,000 — on expensive travel, adult entertainment, and a luxury car.
Correia, a Democrat elected in 2015, has pleaded not guilty and refused to relinquish the mayor’s office. A group called Fall River Recall has begun collecting signatures to recall him. Correia and his lawyers didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to requests for comment.
The no-confidence vote passed 8-1. Councilor Steven A. Camara cast the sole dissenting vote. In a separate measure, the council voted 6-3 to ask Correia to resign.
Camara said he didn’t back the no-confidence proposal because he believes Correia is capable of serving as mayor while the criminal case is pending.
“I have confidence that we can proceed. I believe he’s doing a good job,” he said in an interview.
Councilor Shawn Cadime proposed the plan to have Correia declared unfit for office and replaced temporarily with an acting mayor. The city charter empowers the council to make such a move with the support of seven members, Cadime said.
But other councilors were skeptical, saying the city charter only allows for an acting mayor in instances where a mayor has been incapacitated, fallen ill, or can’t be in the city.
Camara said the city charter doesn’t give the council the authority to force Correia to step aside temporarily, and passing such a measure could trigger an expensive legal fight with Correia, who had signaled his intention to fight efforts to make him relinquish power.
Last month, attorney Mark A. Berthiaume, who represents Correia, told the council in a letter that “appropriate legal action” would be taken if the panel exercised that option.
Councilors started to consider taking action against Correia at their meeting Oct. 16 , but didn’t vote. They deferred action again at a council meeting on Oct. 24 because City Councilor Derek R. Viveiros couldn’t attend.
Correia has insisted that the criminal case hasn’t interfered with his official duties.
On Thursday, he provided the City Council with a letter accompanied by a five-page log detailing his official activities since his arrest. A legal defense fund established on his behalf has a balance of $76,650, state campaign finance records show.
It is unclear how much of that money Correia can use to pay his legal bills.
In an e-mail to Berthiaume on Oct. 24, Maura Cronin, a lawyer for the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, wrote the legal defense fund shouldn’t be used to pay legal fees Correia incurs to defend himself in federal court because the case is “a primarily personal criminal matter” and not related to his public duties.
Cronin said Correia may use the account for legal bills incurred before the indictment was finalized. The e-mail was first reported Tuesday by WSAR-AM, a radio station in Fall River.Laura Crimaldi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.