Letter to voters an issue in Providence mayor race

Jorge Elorza

Providence mayor candidate Jorge Elorza blames a former adviser for copying wording used by another politician and using it in a letter to city voters explaining Elorza's shoplifting arrest when he was a teenager.

Elorza told NBC 10 on Friday that a volunteer staffer wrote the letter to residents and he approved it.

"I sat down with a former adviser and I relayed my story to him in my own words," said Elorza, who wouldn't identify the former adviser.

His opponent in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary, Michael Solomon, points out that the first paragraph of Elorza's letter is very similar to that from a letter Central Falls Mayor James Diossa sent to residents in his city two years ago. GoLocalProv was the first to report about the similarities between the two letters.

Elorza's letter starts, "I want to be upfront about a mistake I made years ago as a young man, because I want you to hear the story direct from me...."

The second sentence in Diossa's letter is identical.

"Had I known that he used a paragraph from a letter that he had worked on or written for someone else, then there's no way I would have allowed this," Elorza said.

Another part of the letter also matches Diossa's identically. It reads, "Why did I do it? I don't have a good answer. Like a lot of teenagers, I wanted to impress my friends."

Elorza answered the plagiarism allegations with allegations of his own about Solomon.

"I chose to disclose this on my own as opposed to my opponent Michael Solomon who's under investigation for 25 separate violations tied to a city, taxpayer-backed loan that's been outstanding for 27 years," he said.

Solomon could not be reached for comment Friday, but said in a statement Thursday that said in part, "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."

The third opponent in the Democratic primary is Chris Young.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.