The vehicle will be used by the commander of the Special Operations Unit and Emergency Services Unit, said Fall River Police Chief Albert Dupere. See the city ride in the background.
– News covered by Quincy Quarry News with commentary added.
City-owned vehicle Fall River now on paid leave mayor used and fueled with tax dollars returned to Fall River police department.
The city-owned black and likely to be Chevrolet Tahoe Secret Service Special Edition formerly driven by the now on-leave mayor Jasiel Correia II has been returned to the police department. Additionally, fuel use records indicate that the twice-indicted politician saved thousands of dollars by filling up on the taxpayer’s dime.
Acting Mayor Cliff Ponte said his “first order of business” after Mayor Jasiel Correia II stepped aside as mayor and suspended his re-election campaign October 15 was to insist on returning the vehicle to the Fall River Police Department.
“It was the easiest decision anybody could ever make,” said Ponte, adding that the police department has a shortage of fleet vehicles.
Correia took a “temporary absence” from office earlier this month, but continues to (inexplicably, ed.) draw a mayoral level of salary from the city..
His use of the police fleet vehicle came under City Council scrutiny last year after it was learned that Correia drove it prior to his first arrest in Bridgewater on October 11, 2018, on federal charges accusing him of bilking investors in his purported startup SnoOwl out of nearly a quarter-million dollars.
Correia did not respond to a request for comment.
According to minutes from a Finance Committee meeting held less than one month after Correia’s first arrest, Dupere directed a police sergeant and the police electrician to pick up the Tahoe in Bridgewater and return it to Fall River because it was a police department vehicle.
In a letter read into the record of the Finance Committee meeting, Dupere wrote that he met Correia’s chief of staff in the police department parking lot the evening of October 11, 2018 to pick up the vehicle’s keys so that it could then be recovered.
A resolution to have Correia maintain and submit mileage logs for the Tahoe was introduced at the Finance Committee meeting last year, but Ponte said neither he nor the council as a body ever received any such records.
A check of the vehicle’s odometer last week showed it had been driven 49,005 miles, according to police. The vehicle had under 1,000 miles on it when it was purchased, according to Mary Sahady, the city’s director of financial services.
The 2015 Tahoe was originally obtained to be used as a police fleet vehicle and was occasionally used by city employees other than Correia.
Dupere and Ponte said Correia refueled the Tahoe at the police department, which kept fuel usage logs that were shared with The Herald News in response to the newspaper’s request for records.
Those records indicate Correia used nearly 3,156 gallons of fuel from the police department during his tenure as mayor. Like other city employees, Correia had a fuel card and a unique personal identification number he had to use to refuel his city ride when refueling at the station,
Corriea also put about one-third of that fuel amount – 1,388 gallons – into the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class he drove in 2016 and 2017, before he took over the the city-owned Chevy Tahoe as his ride..
According to city’ director of financial services.director Sahady, the fuel used by Correia was paid for out of the police department budget.
The department buys fuel at a discounted rate, according to Dupere, who said a gallon of gasoline cost the department, on average, $1.77 in 2019. Based on a review of the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in Massachusetts for 2016, 2017 and 2018, Correia saved approximately $7,606 while serving as the mayor by refueling at the police department rather than paying for his own gas at regular gas stations.
In Fall River, there is no written policy concerning the mayor and fuel expenses, said City Clerk Alison Bouchard. Acting Mayor Ponte said it is unknown whether Correia used the city vehicle and fuel only while on official business because mileage logs were not submitted.
However, in the superseding indictment federal authorities unsealed in September, prosecutors alleged Correia drove the official city vehicle to the city home of Antonio Costa, a co-conspirator in Correia’s alleged scheme to extort prospective marijuana vendors, up to five times to pick up bribes.
Correia also drove the city vehicle to a closed campaign meeting with supporters at LePage’s Seafood and Grille earlier this month.
Conversely, formal systems for reimbursing vehicular travel costs for mayors in two other nearby Southeastern Massachusetts cities are in place. New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell uses his personal vehicle and is “only reimbursed for gas if traveling on official business outside of Greater New Bedford,” said mayoral spokesman Jonathan Carvalho. Alternatively, outgoing Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye receives a $350 monthly stipend for all travel expenses, including fuel, and uses his personal vehicle, according to City Clerk Rose Marie Blackwell.
And as for the City of Quincy, per Quincy Quarry’s understanding from someone in the know and given a review of the city budget, Quincy Mayor Thomas P. Koch’s annual mayoral office budget enjoys both a set $7,200 per year local travel allowance AND his all but exclusive use of a year, leather upholstered, and gas-guzzling black Chevrolet Tahoe Secret Service Edition.