Trinity Repertory Company is raising money for the educational foundation during "The Prince of Providence ," with solicitations in programs, collection buckets at the door nightly and Cianci's own pasta sauce for sale. These efforts had raised about $500 as of Friday, the theater said.
Cianci established a college scholarship fund for Providence school children in 1994, during his second stint in office and before he was sent to prison in 2002 for presiding over widespread corruption in City Hall. An Associated Press examination in 2014 found the charity had amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars, but gave out just a few thousand per year in grants and spent most of its money on expenses other than scholarships. Cianci said then they were building the fund so it continues making money.
Cianci's charities were overhauled after he died in January 2016, merging into the Cianci Educational Foundation.
The theater says it didn't seek or receive any assurances from the foundation that it's being run well today, or have any concerns. The play, which premiered Sept. 12, was extended due to its popularity and ends Sunday.
Cianci's nephew, Brad Turchetta, had hoped the theater would raise more for the foundation. By comparison, Turchetta said, the Graduate Hotel in Providence removed portraits of Cianci in response to a complaint about his criminal history and sold them, raising roughly $15,000 to $20,000 for the foundation's scholarships.
Turchetta, the foundation's executor, said Trinity offered to fundraise after some of Cianci's relatives and friends publicly complained when it was announced in March that "The Prince of Providence" would be inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Mike Stanton's biography of the same name. They think the book is inaccurate and felt Cianci's memoir would've been a better choice.
Turchetta said the foundation is run differently now, with a board that distributed more than $20,000 last year in scholarships and follows the law regarding how much money raised needs to be given out. There was a board before, but mainly Cianci ran it, he added.
Turchetta said Friday he'd give the AP a recent tax form showing the changes, but hadn't done so by Tuesday.
The most recent publicly available tax form covers the scholarship fund in 2015, prior to the merger. It shows nearly 55% of the disbursements were for contributions and gifts and about 45% was spent on operating and administrative expenses. The largest gift listed went to the commerce association in Providence's Federal Hill neighborhood, which Cianci often frequented.
Charity evaluators look for at least 65% of disbursements to be spent on contributions, said Christopher Ryan Jr., an expert on trusts who teaches at Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, Rhode Island.
For years, no money from the "Mayor's Own Marinara Sauce" was donated to the scholarship fund. A Cianci adviser told the AP in 2014 the sauce made $3 in income in total from 2009 to 2012.
Turchetta said the sauce now provides several hundred dollars for the foundation monthly.
Cianci was known for his colorful TV appearances and publicity stunts touting Providence and himself. He was forced from office twice due to felonies. Cianci reinvented himself as the host of a popular radio talk show before attempting a comeback bid in 2014.
Caitlin Howle, a spokeswoman for Trinity, said the theater thought the fundraising would recognize "the positive elements of Buddy's legacy."
Stanton said he wasn't consulted about fundraising and he dismissed criticism of his book Monday, saying it's fair and accurate and of course Cianci "partisans" aren't going to like it.
M. Charles Bakst, a retired political columnist for The Providence Journal, didn't donate when he saw the play. Bakst didn't mind the fundraising though, since donating was optional. It would've given him pause if proceeds from ticket sales went to the foundation.
The AP's past reporting about Cianci's scholarship fund was "jolting," Bakst said. Still, he was surprised more wasn't collected.
"A decent number of people who went to that show were fans of his and I would think they might be a little more apt to give," he said Monday.
Turchetta appreciates the theater's gesture of goodwill and enjoyed seeing the play.
"It keeps Buddy's name in the news and at the forefront," he said. "Buddy would've liked that."
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