Embattled Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, who faces several federal charges following his two arrests within a year, is taking leave from his job and will "forgo" his campaign for reelection, he announced Tuesday.
The City Council president will handle the duties of the mayor, Correia said, in front of the active construction of a $300 million new high school. He said he would focus on social programs and listed his achievements as mayor.
"Today's announcement provides the city of Fall River an opportunity to build on the successes and accomplishments of my administration without any distraction," he said. "This announcement allows the voters who will take to the polls the chance to evaluate candidates on policy and platforms, not headlines."
While he called it a "temporary absence," Correia's leave is effective immediately and will last until the end of his term, Jan. 1. He will still collect his $119,000 annual salary, spokesman George Regan said Monday, while previewing the mayor's leave of absence and suspension of his reelection campaign.
Hardy anyone at City Hall knew about the decision, and many were blindsided, sources told NBC10 Boston.
In order to step aside, Correia had to submit a letter saying he will be absent and unable to perform the duties of his office. He submitted the letter Tuesday afternoon and, according to the city's charter, he is allowed to retain his salary.
Correia's opponent in the general election, Fall River School Committee memeber Paul Coogan, said Tuesday that he will continue to campaign even though Correia is stepping aside.
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"We're not letting up," Coogan said.
Correia was first arrested October 2018 after he allegedly defrauded investors out of more than $230,000 for an app he developed. He was arrested last month when he was accused of extorting marijuana vendors. He has vowed to fight the charges.
Following his latest arrest, Correia came in second during a primary election and was given the green-light to appear on the ballot in November. A judge had shot down an attempt by the City Council to have Correia temporarily removed.
Correia didn't explain what prompted his sudden decision to take the leave of absence, and didn't take questions after finishing his announcement.
"At the end of the day, Fall River must win, not just any one person," he said.
But he insisted that he will continue to fight for residents either as an elected official or a private citizen.
"I fully expect to lead this city on the rise once again in the future," he said as he concluded.
Among the accomplishments Correia listed are funding Fall River's stabilization account and education budget, upgrading the fire department and ending the "pay as you throw" trash program.