'Buddy' Cianci, controversial ex-mayor of Providence, dies at 74

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Former Mayor Buddy Cianci, the wisecracking political rogue who presided over the revitalization of Providence during two stints in office cut short by criminal charges and a prison sentence for corruption, died Thursday.

See Full Article

He was 74.

Cianci's employer, WLNE-TV, and a friend, Artin Coloian, confirmed his death. Coloian said he died Thursday morning. He did not release the cause. WLNE said he was taping his weekly TV show, "On the Record with Buddy Cianci," Wednesday evening when he had severe stomach pains and was taken by ambulance to Miriam Hospital.

Cianci was elected to six terms as mayor, a period that coincided with the resurrection of Providence from a decaying, Industrial-age relic to a 21st-century city with gondolas plying newly uncovered rivers. His bare-fisted style of politics made Cianci larger than life even in a tiny state known for the outsized personalities of its public figures.

"He's the most talented politician that New England has produced since John Kennedy," former University of Rhode Island political scientist Marc Genest said in a 2002 interview.

The charismatic mayor became ensnared in an FBI investigation into City Hall corruption, code-named "Operation Plunder Dome." In 2001, he was indicted charges he orchestrated bribes for jobs, contracts and contributions to his campaign fund.

Cianci vehemently proclaimed his innocence: "I have said to you before, there are no stains on this jacket, and I assure you there still are no stains on this jacket," he said after the indictment.

The case went to trial in 2002. In a circus-like trial that lasted seven weeks and featured a local who's who list of wise guys and mob wannabes, a jury found Cianci guilty of one count of racketeering conspiracy. He was sentenced to five years, four months in a federal prison.

He was released from prison in 2007. He would later call his prison term a "bump in the road."

After prison, he resumed his career as a radio talk show host and TV commentator, but the pull back to politics was strong.

"All the things that they celebrate in this city are the things that I did," Cianci said in 2014 as he contemplated a comeback bid for mayor.

Despite being diagnosed with cancer the same year, he chose to jump in, running as an independent. Faced with the possibility of a Cianci return to office, several Democratic candidates dropped out to consolidate support behind political newcomer Jorge Elorza. The idea of a new Cianci administration was so objectionable that even the Republican candidate donated $1,000 to Elorza and then voted for him.

Cianci lost, but still pulled in 45 per cent of the vote.

Ironically, Cianci began his public career as a state prosecutor on the attorney general's anti-corruption task force. For six years, he made a name for himself going after members of the powerful mob families.

In 1974, at 32, he capitalized on a rift in the dominant Democratic Party to win the mayoral post as a Republican. His first three terms were marred by scandal. Twenty-two city workers and contractors were convicted of corruption charges, including Cianci's chief of staff and city solicitor. But the mayor was never charged.

"I knew so little," he said later. "I learned and grew in the job."

In 1980, he ran for governor. But he was soundly defeated by Democratic incumbent Joseph Garrahy. He returned as mayor in a subsequent election.

Personal problems sidetracked Cianci's career in 1984.

He pleaded no contest to attacking his estranged wife's alleged lover with an ashtray, lit cigarette, and a fireplace log. As a condition of his plea deal, he was forced to resign.

Cianci took a job as a talk-radio host on a local station and regained the mayor's office in 1990. The second coming of Cianci coincided with "Providence renaissance."

Rivers that had run through underground culverts were reclaimed. Ornate walkways and bridges graced the rivers. Providence landed the largest mall in the region. People flocked to a downtown that just decades ago had been a dangerous, seamy zone. The hugely popular WaterFire display lighted up the rivers with floating braziers of crackling, burning cedar.

Cianci soaked up the notoriety. He marketed his own line of pasta sauce and became a fixture on the national "Imus in the Morning" radio show.

But beneath the glitter, the city was rotting. Buddy's Providence was a town for sale, federal prosecutors said, where even routine dealings with City Hall -- such as applying for jobs or bidding on contracts -- meant greasing a few palms.

"I used my public power for personal reasons. I admit it," Cianci wrote in a 2011 memoir. "It probably wasn't the right thing to do, but it certainly felt good."

Cianci maintained his innocence, and appealed his conviction while incarcerated. His appeals failed.

"I love this city. It's a very, very saddening thought to be separated from it," he told The Associated Press the morning he left for prison. "My whole life, personally and professionally, has revolved around it. How do you walk away from that? I'm not sure you do. ... Providence is a part of me."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Stray bullet travels through window killing boy eating snack

    World News CTV News
    LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Police in Kentucky say a stray bullet fired during an outdoor fight travelled through the window of a nearby home, killing a 7-year-old who was eating a bedtime snack at his kitchen table. Source
  • Trump greeted with selfies and politics on arrival in Israel

    World News CTV News
    JERUSALEM -- U.S. President Donald Trump got an abrupt Israeli welcome on his arrival in Tel Aviv on Monday, with ministers asking favours and snapping selfies as they sought to get a piece of the commander in chief's attention. Source
  • UN envoy: All Syria parties agree to talks on constitution

    World News CTV News
    For the first time, all parties to Syria's conflict -- including the divided opposition -- have agreed to take part in expert talks to help lay the foundation for a new constitution, the UN special envoy for the country said Monday. Source
  • Iranian president calls U.S. relations 'a curvy road'

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani on Monday called relations with the United States "a curvy road," saying he hoped the Trump administration will "settle down" enough for his nation to better understand it. Source
  • Boy, 14, drowns in Newfoundland pond after canoe overturns

    Canada News CTV News
    GANDER, N.L. -- A 14-year-old boy has drowned after a canoe was overturned in a pond in Newfoundland and Labrador. Police say three teens were canoeing in Vardy's Pond near Gander when the boat tipped over on Sunday afternoon. Source
  • Turkey slams U.S. over ‘aggressive’ acts against bodyguards

    World News Toronto Sun
    ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador on Monday to protest what it called “aggressive and unprofessional actions” by American security personnel against Turkish bodyguards in Washington during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit last week. The action appeared to be in retaliation to calls in the U.S. Source
  • Leaked Facebook documents show types of content it allows, says report

    World News CBC News
    Leaked Facebook documents show how the social media company moderates issues such as hate speech, terrorism, pornography and self-harm on its platform, the Guardian reported, citing internal guidelines seen by the newspaper. New challenges such as "revenge porn" have overwhelmed Facebook's moderators, who often have just 10 seconds to make a decision, the Guardian said. Source
  • Bill Cosby 'looking forward' to trial as jury selection in sex assault case begins

    World News CBC News
    A Temple University basketball team manager's complaint that famous alumnus Bill Cosby drugged and molested her when she went to his home outside Philadelphia for career advice in 2004 will soon go before a Pennsylvania jury. Source
  • Game hunter crushed by elephant he shot

    World News Toronto Sun
    Always keep your eyes on the prize. One hunter learned that the hard way. Theunis Botha, 51, was killed in Zimbabwe on Friday when he was crushed to death by an elephant cow he just shot. According to the U.K. Source
  • Mentally ill dad who killed three kids up for review in British Columbia

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- The case of a British Columbia man found not criminally responsible for killing his three children because of a mental illness is up for review, two years after a provincial board opened the door to him receiving supervised day trips. Source