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Twice-ousted former Mayor Buddy Cianci honored in Rhode Island capital

Former mayor and twice-convicted felon Buddy Cianci was honored with a portrait ceremony in Providence, R.I., Thursday.

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Former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci speaks to the crowd gathered at city hall after his portrait was unveiled in Providence, R.I., Thursday. The portrait of former mayor and two-time felon was unveiled at City Hall on Thursday, and Mr. 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 to an overflow crowd of cheering supporters.

Glenn Osmundson/Providence Journal/AP

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Criminal history or not, Providence, R.I., twice-ousted former Mayor Buddy Cianci deserves recognition for his leadership, archivists say.

The city unveiled a portrait of the former mayor Thursday during a ceremony attended by an overflow crowd of supporters. The paintings will hang in Providence City Hall where Mr. Cianci twice served as mayor, despite the fact that he was forced to resign from office both times following separate felony convictions.

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“It’s not the first time I’ve been framed,” Cianci joked with his crowd of supporters.

Cianci was the city’s longest serving mayor. The portrait references many of his triumphs while in office, including a book written about the Providence Renaissance, when the downtown was revitalized. The portrait also depicted the former mayor with a full head of hair, as Cianci wore a toupee in office.

Despite the cheering crowds at the portrait unveiling, Cianci’s 21 years as mayor were not without controversy. Cianci’s first run as mayor ended after he pleaded no contest to assaulting a man with a log, ashtray, and lit cigarette. His second run ended after being convicted of a racketeering conspiracy.

Current Mayor Jorge Elorza, who defeated Cianci in his bid to return to office last year, was noticeably absent from the ceremony. A spokesman told the Associated Press there had been a scheduling conflict.

The ceremony was hosted by former Mayor Joseph Paolino, who was often a political rival of Cianci. Mr. Paolino said during the address that it didn’t matter where he went or who he talked to, “They all asked about, Buddy.”

The portrait was privately funded. Council Chairman Terrence M. Hassett, assisted by City Archivist Paul Campbell, raised $25,000 in private money. Cianci’s portrait was the first privately funded portrait of a Providence mayor since 1832, according to the Providence Journal

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

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The energetic celebration came to an abrupt end after Cianci, a septuagenarian, had to take a seat as he became too hot. He was escorted to an ambulance and was hospitalized briefly but was released in time to attend a dinner in his honor on Federal Hill later that night.

"He was just hot and understandably woozy," former campaign manager, Cyd McKenna, told the AP. "He's fine."

This report includes material from the Associated Press.