'I've been framed' felon ex-mayor quips at portrait reveal

AP News
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Posted: Nov 20, 2015 8:13 AM
'I've been framed' felon ex-mayor quips at portrait reveal

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A portrait of former mayor and two-time felon Buddy Cianci was unveiled at City Hall, and Cianci couldn't resist telling a one-liner referring to his criminal past.

"It's not the first time I've been framed," Cianci cracked Thursday to an overflow crowd of cheering supporters.

The portrait includes references to some of Cianci's triumphs as Providence mayor, including a book about the Providence Renaissance, when the city's downtown was revitalized. It also shows Cianci with a full head of hair. He was known for wearing a toupee in office but now refers to it as "the squirrel."

Cianci, who spent 21 years in office and is the city's longest-serving mayor, noted he had only been back to City Hall once since he left office in 2002 and that was a brief visit to register to vote. He said after the ceremony that Thursday's visit filled him with nostalgia.

"For some reason, it looks smaller," he said.

Cianci was forced from office twice, first in 1984, when he pleaded no contest to assaulting a man with a fireplace log, an ashtray and a lit cigarette. His second administration ended in 2002 with a 4 1/2-year federal prison term for racketeering conspiracy. He attempted a comeback bid for mayor as an independent last year but lost to Jorge Elorza, a Democrat and political novice.

City Hall already featured portraits of all the mayors before Cianci. The Cianci portrait was privately funded and presented during a ceremony sponsored by the city archivist's office. Elorza was notably absent. A spokesman said he was invited but had a scheduling conflict.

When asked what Elorza thought about hanging Cianci's portrait in City Hall, spokesman Evan England first referred calls to the archivist and the City Council. When pressed for Elorza's opinion about it, England did not comment.

City reference archivist Britni Gorman said the office was focused on tradition and was not concerned about Cianci's criminal history.

"For us, it doesn't matter," Gorman said. "We carry the tradition of putting up these portraits."

The celebration came to an abrupt end when Cianci, 74, was overcome by the heat in the packed room and had to sit down. An ambulance was called as a precaution, and Cianci was hospitalized briefly Thursday night.

His former campaign manager, Cyd McKenna, said he did not collapse or lose consciousness.

"He was just hot and understandably woozy," she said. "He's fine."

Cianci, who hosts a daily talk radio show, was treated for cancer last year.