Elorza campaign copied letter from Central Falls mayor

Jorge Elorza, a Democrat, speaks about his campaign for mayor of Providence.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Mayoral candidate Jorge Elorza is blaming a “former advisor” for drafting a letter on his behalf using language that is nearly identical to a letter that was sent in 2012 by Central Falls Mayor James Diossa.

The Elorza letter describes his arrest for shoplifting when he was 18 years old, an incident similar Diossa’s own shoplifting arrest when he was teenager. Elorza says he stole a shirt from a department store. Diossa admitted he stole a bottle of cologne from a store.

Both letters state: “Why did I do it? I don’t have a good answer. Like a lot of teenagers, I wanted to impress my friends. I knew it was the wrong thing to do and I accepted full responsibility immediately.”

Elorza campaign manager Marisa O’Gara acknowledged that the advisor who helped prepare Elorza’s letter also worked on the letter for Diossa. She declined to name the advisor. Diossa has endorsed Elorza for mayor.

“A former advisor helped our campaign write the first draft of this letter, and this same advisor had also worked on James Diossa’s letter,” O’Gara wrote in a statement. “Jorge relayed his personal story, our advisor presented us with this language, and Jorge felt it accurately described his personal struggle. If we had known the language was the same as Mayor Diossa’s, we would have immediately corrected it.”

Elorza disclosed the shoplifting arrest in a letter to 7,000 voters in June, but the website GoLocalProv was the first news outlet to report on the incident.

Elorza is running in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary against City Council President Michael Solomon and Chris Young. The winner will take on Republican Daniel Harrop and independent Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. in the general election. Incumbent Mayor Angel Taveras is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

In a statement, Solomon campaign manager Jake Bissaillon said the copied letter “raises serious and troubling questions.”

“This is really no different than lying directly to the voters of Providence,” Bissaillon said. “And that is troubling. For weeks, Mr. Elorza has attacked Michael Solomon’s character over a clerical error on a financial filing, a paperwork issue. Plagiarism is a character issue and if Mr. Elorza was honest here, he would say anyone who had done this isn’t fit to be mayor.”

Elorza has been highly critical of Solomon in recent weeks after the state Ethics Commission launched an investigation into a complaint filed by Republican City Council candidate Michael Long accusing the council president of more than two dozen reporting violations on his annual financial disclosure form. Solomon has amended those filings dating back to 2007.

Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan

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