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Diossa, Moran face off in Central Falls mayoral race

A primary last Tuesday for a special election to determine the next mayor of Central Falls eliminated three of five candidates from the race. The two remaining candidates - both Democrats - will face off in the general election Dec. 11.

Previous Mayor Charles Moreau officially resigned in late September in the wake of corruption charges. The city has technically been in state-appointed receivership for over two years since declaring financial insolvency in 2010, later filing for bankruptcy in 2011.

Current City Councilman James Diossa won the primary with a significant lead of almost 60 percent of the vote, and he gained an additional 111 mail-in votes counted two days after the election. He will now face the second-highest finisher, former police chief James Moran, in next month's election. Moran received 18 percent of the vote, securing his place in the general election over former mayor Thomas Lazieh by 3 percent or roughly 100 votes.

To catch up with Diossa's primary lead, Moran would need to win all of the votes cast for each of the eliminated candidates, plus over 600 additional votes.

"I have a lot of work to do," Moran said at his post-election party, adding that the special election's place on the ballot along with the presidential race drew larger voter turnout than can be expected for December's election.

Diossa's success in the primary followed endorsements from U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, state Rep. Gus Silva, D-Central Falls, and state Sen. Betty Crowley, D-Central Falls, who defeated Moran in a primary election to maintain control of her seat in September.

"I have walked the streets of Central Falls with (Diossa), and I trust that he will be a strong advocate for the people of his city," Reed said in his statement of support.

Diossa unveiled a press release about two weeks before the election outlining his plans for a comprehensive ethics reform package to be implemented as one of his first major initiatives in office. The proposed reforms follow charges filed against Moreau, who is expected to plead guilty later this month on charges of accepting gifts and large discounts on items in exchange for political favors.

"I will never take donations from Central Falls employees or city vendors," Diossa said. He also promised to avoid nepotism in hiring and government position appointment.

Diossa's proposed reforms include establishing a Central Falls code of ethics that "goes beyond" the official code of the state. He also plans to commission a cost-neutral ethics board of volunteer members and add responsibilities for the city solicitor that include ethics education and advisement and producing written and online materials covering the subject.

Diossa also suggested measures modeled on the ethics policies of cities like New York and Los Angeles, specifically a mandatory registry of all lobbyists and persons requesting contracts from the city and a restriction on campaign contributions from donors with interests in city contracts. He suggested pursuing legislation that would give the city the right to lower or withdraw pension payments from public officials and employees found guilty of ethical misconduct. 

"Those who violate the public trust should not be rewarded," Diossa wrote.

Diossa started his career in the City Council two years ago at age 24 after defeating the incumbent for Ward 4. He played a central leadership role in organizing efforts to preserve Central Falls' post office and public library in the midst of the city's financial crisis.



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