Cicilline: I'm not bothered by Cianci's criticism

Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline suggests that he doesn't concern himself much with criticism of his administration by Buddy Cianci, who has ramped up his talk-radio based critiques of Cicilline in recent weeks.

Speaking this morning during a taping of WPRI/WNAC-TV's Newsmakers, Cicilline said he doesn't listen to Cianci's late-morning talk-radio show. When Arlene Violet asked Cicilline for his reaction to Cianci's criticism, Cicilline said he would leave it to others to judge Cianci's credibility. (The show will be broadcast Sunday, at 5:30 am on Channel 12, and at 10 am on Fox 64.)

As we know, Cianci was released from federal prison earlier this year after having served about four-and-a-half years on a single count of racketeering conspiracy. More than 20 individuals associated with his first tenure at City Hall were covicted of corruption-related charges.

Cianci has nonetheless presented himself as a self-styled Providence watchdog, saying earlier this week that no one connected the dots while he was "away," and now that he's back, "I'm the dot-connector." His criticism has focused, among other things, on the city's approach to funding part of the salary for John Simmons, Cicilline's director of administration. (Following the circulation of related rumors, Cianci has called Simmons a finalist to succeed Gary Sasse as the executive director of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council.)

As was recently reported here, Cicilline's spokeswoman says the Fund for Providence, which is administered by the Rhode Island Foundation, hasn't been contributing to Simmons's salary for about two-and-a-half years.

During today's taping, I asked Cicilline why his administration has declined to identify the donor or donors who, through the Foundation, previously paid part of Simmons' salary.

The mayor started to respond by saying it was the Foundation, not his administration, that declined to identify the source of the funding. He also called the Fund for Providence a mechanism to get useful things done when the city was facing a $60 million deficit early in his first term.

I interjected, asking if anonymous donations to the Fund for Providence posed potential conflicts of interest since, for example, a company with business before the city could be among the contributors.

Cicilline answered by saying that protections were incorporated into the process to guard against potential conflicts. He says the board administering the Fund for Providence screened donors, so that donations would not be accepted from companies with business before the city.

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