(This story has been updated to include the mayor’s refusal to step down and a call by representatives for a moratorium on new marijuana licenses.)
A Massachusetts mayor charged with extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from cannabis companies has been temporarily ousted from office.
The Fall River City Council voted 8-to-1 on Tuesday night in favor of appointing Council President Cliff Ponte to temporarily replace Jasiel Correia as mayor “until such a time that the charges against (him) are withdrawn,” The Boston Globe reported.
Correia was charged with conspiring to extort $600,000 from at least four business owners in exchange for official letters needed to obtain a license to set up a marijuana business, according to federal authorities.
Ponte on Monday asked the 27-year-old to step down.
The Herald News of Fall River on Wednesday reported that Correia refused to stop working and said he would not sign the order removing him as mayor. He called the order nonbinding.
The newspaper also reported that three state representatives from Fall River asked the state Cannabis Control Commission to delay pending applications for cannabis businesses in the city and place a moratorium on retail licenses in the wake of Correia’s indictment.
In response to Ponte’s proposal, Correia recommended that the Council review all official mayoral actions.
Correia, who became Fall River’s youngest mayor when he was elected in 2015 at age 23, showed up for work Monday three days after pleading not guilty to federal charges including bribery, extortion and wire fraud.
He denied the new charges outside of court.
Earlier this week, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he will follow the lead of the Cannabis Control Commission on any proposed changes to the state’s marijuana law in the wake of this high-profile arrest.
– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily