Mayor Patrick Cannon, a Ballantyne resident, resigned his office Wednesday, March 26, after being arrested and charged for allegedly violating federal public corruption laws by accepting some $48,000 in cash and other gifts in exchange for the use of his official position, according to an FBI news release.
Cannon, a resident of the Kenilworth neighborhood, was elected mayor in November 2013. But the FBI’s investigation into the Charlotte politician started well before then, when agents working on “a tip and information received from local law enforcement” began focusing on Charlotte government officials in August 2010, eventually zeroing in on Cannon, according to the release. Cannon was a city councilman at the time and continued to interact with undercover agents during his campaign for mayor and after his election, the FBI said.
The investigation alleges that Cannon accepted bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as commercial real estate developers and investors on five separate occasions, including one incident where he accepted $20,000 in cash in the mayor’s office, according to the release. In all, the alleged bribes totaled $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and “use of a luxury apartment in exchange for the use of his official position.”
County Manager Dena Diorio released a statement Wednesday night, saying the county is reviewing the situation due to references in the FBI documents about Cannon allegedly offering to help bypass Mecklenburg County code enforcement. And residents opposed to recently passed zoning issues – specifically the apartment complex on Endhaven Lane and low-income complex on Weddington Road in south Charlotte – have already called on officials to revisit those zonings in light of the allegations about possible favors for investors.
Councilman Ed Driggs, who represents the Ballantyne area, said Thursday, March 26, that he will look into issues with those rezonings when the time comes. For now, both he and Councilman Kenny Smith, who represents the SouthPark area, say continuing to move the city forward is
“I want to reiterate that I am working today, just as yesterday, and I will work tomorrow, with the people of District 6,” Smith said. “The council is united in continuing to conduct city business and try to move on.”
Cannon faces a number of charges, including theft and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, honest services wire fraud and extortion under color of official right. In all, the charges could carry a statutory maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine, according to the release. Documents released by the FBI show searches taking place at Cannon’s home, the mayor’s office and his business, E-Z Parking.
Some of Cannon’s discussions with the undercover agents regarded the “investors” purchasing land along the controversial CityLYNX Gold Line, formerly known as the streetcar project – which is a favorite target of some in south Charlotte as an example of local taxpayers’ dollars being wasted on “Uptown” projects.
“… Cannon agreed to assist (an undercover agent) with information about the proposed construction schedule for the Gold Line extension so (the agent) could time his purchase of real property on the Gold Line,” according to FBI documents released to news media. Cannon then informed the agent that the Gold Line was a top priority of his, and that he planned on speaking to President Barack Obama about the project at an upcoming meeting while in Washington, D.C., according to documents.
In another conversation, Cannon allegedly described the ways he could help the “investor” handle Charlotte business standards.
“Anything that(’s) going to be a part of your development, where you could potentially face some snags, yes, I should be able to help you with that,” Cannon is quoted as saying to an agent in documents.
In his resignation letter released Wednesday night, Cannon said: “I hereby give notice of my resignation from the position of the mayor of the city of Charlotte, effective immediately. In light of the charges that have been brought against me, it is my judgement that the pendency of these charges will create too much of a distraction for the business of the city to go forward smoothly and without
“It is my hope that by my taking this action, the members of our city council and the staff of the city will continue to move the city forward. The city is fortunate to have officials and staff who are competent, loyal and committed to advancing the interests of all our people.
“I regret that I have to take this action, but I believe that it is in the best interest of the city for me to do so.”
Councilman Michael Barnes is the council’s mayor pro tem. Barnes, formerly the University City-area representative, was re-elected in November as an at-large member. Barnes will run city meetings until an interim mayor is appointed at the meeting Monday, March 31.
“While there will be extensive media attention to Mayor Cannon’s arrest, it is our expectation that the city manager and the professional staff of the city focus on providing excellent city services: the trash will be collected, emergency calls answered, buses and trains will run and the water will flow and sewage be treated,” read a statement from city council.