Charlotte 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 Ballantyne’s Kenilworth neighborhood, was elected to the mayor seat 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 investigating in August 2010, eventually focusing 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.”
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.
“… 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 interruption.
“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.
Find more in Friday’s issue of South Charlotte Weekly.
City Council’s Statement:
We were notified today at the same time as the public that Mayor Patrick Cannon was arrested on federal charges.
The City Council is deeply disappointed to learn of the Mayor’s arrest. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. His arrest came as a complete surprise to the City Council and the City Manager. The first any of us learned about the investigation is when the FBI served a search warrant on the Mayor’s Office at noon today.
The City Manager and City Attorney have spoken with the U.S. Attorney and have committed the City’s full cooperation. The City Manager has also directed that all City staff fully cooperate.
The City of Charlotte has a long history of honest government and the City Council is dedicated to preserving the City’s reputation.
It is our expectation that all business of City government be conducted honestly and fairly.
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.
Charlotte has a Council/Manager form of Government. The Mayor’s role is to preside over Council meetings and represent the City officially. The Council is responsible for adopting laws and the budget. The City Council and City staff will continue to serve the public with honesty, integrity, openness and accountability.
Under State law, Patrick Cannon remains Mayor unless and until he either resigns or is convicted of a felony. The City Council has no power to remove a Mayor. In the Mayor’s absence from any meeting, the Mayor Pro Tem presides. If the Mayor resigns or is convicted of a felony, the City Council would appoint a Mayor to fulfill the remainder of the term.
Finally, the City reiterates that there is an on-going federal investigation. We are cooperating fully with the investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment on the investigation at this time. The City Council and City staff are focused on the continuity of government and providing the highest standards of services to the citizens of Charlotte.
Mecklenburg County Manager’s Statement:
From County Manager Dena R. Diorio:
We are aware of the allegations against and arrest of Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon.
We are reviewing the documents and criminal complaint, and know there are references by Cannon regarding Mecklenburg County’s Code Enforcement process.
We are not aware of any connection to the County, but will cooperate fully with any investigation.