EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Never mind that former Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Ciancispent more than four years in prison on a federal corruptionconviction. Forget that prosecutors painted his administration asrife with bribery and graft.
The past is swept aside on weekday afternoons, when Cianci useshis popular radio talk show to accuse local officials of wrongdoingand bad judgment, revel in their stumbles and hammer ceaselessly atthose who cross him.
Though convicted of abusing the public trust, Cianci nowpostures himself as a good-government watchdog — an ironyreadily apparent to his critics.
"Buddy is the epitome of a self-promoter, and he uses the radioand television for self-promotion," said Lincoln Almond, a formerRhode Island governor and U.S. attorney. "He will always say whathe thinks is going to help him at anyone's expense."
But Cianci — who, as the longest-serving mayor inProvidence history, maintains a devoted following — sees nohypocrisy. He argues he's already served his time, was acquitted ofall but one count (racketeering conspiracy) and never improperlytook a dime.
Cianci relies on a network of tipsters — often disgruntledcity employees — plus institutional knowledge gleaned frommore than 21 years as mayor to deliver news he believes listenerswouldn't get elsewhere.
"People call me. We expose a lot of stories here, whether it'sthe police department, whether it's state stuff," he boastedbetween guests on a recent show.
Then, he deadpanned, "I know where the bodies are buried."
Cianci, 69, landed his show on WPRO-AM soon after his releasefrom prison in 2007, reprising a role as talk-show host he heldbetween his first and second stints as mayor.
He now occupies the coveted evening-drive time slot, where hisattacks on his favorite punching bag, Providence Mayor DavidCicilline, will likely amplify as Cicilline runs for Congress thisyear.
Cianci's insight and witty banter make him a logical fit forradio, even if his history makes him a questionable messenger, saidRhode Island political analyst Marc Genest.
"You have the good Buddy, who is this insightful politicalanalyst and does a remarkable job of critiquing policy," Genestsaid. "And then you have the bad Buddy, who's willing to chop offyour feet if you get out of line."
It's hard to tell how much Cianci's attacks sway public opinion,but his opponents may feel compelled to respond if enough peoplestart repeating the criticism, Genest said.
Though Cianci spends ample air time complaining about thecurrent administration, he also has broken news.
In the fall, he revealed how a handcuffed, breaking-and-enteringsuspect had been beaten by a Providence police officer in a parkinglot — an assault caught on video by a nearby building'ssecurity camera. Prosecutors convened a grand jury, and a detectivewas indicted in February on a felony assault charge.
This month, Cianci conducted the first extensive interview ofthe beating victim, interspersing sympathetic questions withattacks on the police department — the same force tarnishedunder Cianci's administration by a scandal over cheating on apromotional exam.
"Where are our U.S. senators? Where's our congressmen? Whyaren't they calling the Justice Department to get involved inthis?" Cianci thundered. "I mean, come on, this is crazy."
He's also a commentator on Rhode Island's ABC televisionaffiliate, where last month he got North Providence Mayor CharlesLombardi to allege on-air that he had been the target of ashakedown attempt over a municipal judgeship appointment.
"I've been there. You've been there too," Cianci said. "Ithappens."
Cianci's barbs are often personal, sometimes petty, reflecting adesire to preserve a legacy he feels is often disrespected. He teesoff repeatedly on Cicilline, derisively calling him the "Teflonmayor" and reminding listeners that Cicilline's brother, adisbarred lawyer, was convicted of shaking down drug-dealingclients. He also repeatedly makes references to the recentdrug-related arrests of four Providence police officers and therape conviction of another.
"They talk about the new Providence as opposed to the oldProvidence. I kind of like the old Providence. They try to come inwith all this stuff: 'The old Providence sucked, it was no good,'"Cianci lamented in one typical riff.
"That was the Providence where we built malls, where werelocated rivers ... where there weren't the potholes that thereare today."
Cicilline and Police Chief Dean Esserman declined to comment.Cicilline typically refuses to engage Cianci, referring to himsimply as "my predecessor."
Elected in 1974, Cianci was forced from office 10 years laterafter admitting he assaulted a man he believed was having an affairwith his estranged wife. His weapons were a lit cigarette, anashtray and a fireplace log.
Cianci won re-election in 1990, but was convicted in 2002 ofpresiding over vast City Hall corruption that included an FBI tapeof his right-hand-man accepting cash bribes.
He remains popular with many Rhode Islanders who praise him
fora gregarious and accessible demeanor and credit him forrevitalizing a once-downtrodden Providence. His Facebook page ofroughly 5,000 friends is full of fawning messages fromsupporters.
"I will not believe all the crap they say about you and defendyou any chance I get," one wrote. Said another: "I listen to youeveryday, your insight is amazing."
Though he craved — and often received — affection asmayor, Cianci professes not to care if someone doesn't like hisshow. Enough people do, he says.
"Listen to somebody else, listen to another radio station,"Cianci scoffed one recent afternoon, applying makeup in preparationfor a TV appearance later in the day. "What do you want from me? Wehave the highest-rated show. Apparently it's working."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
UPDATE: The owner of a debris-covered South Providence lot that was recently fined by the city receives just under $170,000 per month.
The suspected robber in a hold-up at a convenience store was caught by police trying to board a plane.
BREAKING NEWS: Providence police have identified the victim who was shot and killed Wednesday as 16-year-old Eric Cuesta of Providence. Police have also charged a man with his murder.
A fire broke out early Wednesday evening at the Amtrol building on Division Road in West Warwick.
A man was found dead in a carbon monoxide-filled home in Coventry Wednesday night, according to police and firefighters.