Originally published: March 26, 2014, 6 p.m.
Updated: March 27, 2014, 8:23 a.m. p.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — City Council stood united on Wednesday afternoon in the face of public corruption allegations now facing Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, who, after taking office just this past December, submitted a letter of resignation on Wednesday evening.
Nearly all members of Council and City Manager Ron Carlee were present at the press conference, following the arrest earlier Wednesday of Cannon, who is charged with several counts of theft and bribery, wire fraud and extortion.
Federal investigators allege that Cannon took more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and use of a luxury apartment in exchange for promises he would use his City Council and mayoral office to assist undercover federal officers posing as commercial real estate developers and investors.
The federal complaint against Cannon alleges that he received the cash and other bribes on at least five different occasions, including as recently as Feb. 21, 2014, when Cannon received $20,000 in cash in the mayor’s office and solicited some $1 million more.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating Cannon since August 2010.
Cannon was released from federal custody soon after his arrest on a $25,000 bond, pending indictment.
Charlotte City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes read a formal statement from the city at the press conference this afternoon, the full text of which is included below this article.
Barnes said the city and Council were “deeply disappointed” to learn about the investigation.
“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,” Barnes read from the statement.
Council expects “that all business of City government be conducted honestly and fairly.”
“The City Council and City staff will continue to serve the public with honesty, integrity, openness and accountability,” Barnes read.
Local media pressed Barnes and other Council members on whether Cannon’s alleged crimes might have affected any Council votes or other city business.
“Our history has been that we run a clean government and it is my expectation and the expectation of my colleagues is that we will continue to run a clean government,” Barnes responded.
The allegations against Cannon also elicited response from former Charlotte Mayor and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who has known Cannon since they were young.
“I am both saddened and angered because I have known Patrick and his family for over 30 years, but more than anything, my heart is broken for the City of Charlotte,” said Governor McCrory. “This is not the city that I know, served and love. This alleged behavior is inexcusable and cannot be tolerated.”
Only one official at the conference — City Manager Carlee — said he had spoken to Cannon today. He characterized the conversation as a short one and said he told Cannon he was keeping him and his family in his thoughts.
Under state law, Cannon could have remained mayor until he resigns or is convicted of a felony.
Local media asked Barnes if Cannon would be resigning his position.
“I will let the mayor decide what he thinks he needs to do,” Barnes responded.
Cannon tendered his resignation on Wednesday evening in a letter addressed to City Manager Carlee and City Attorney Bob Hagemann.
Cannon’s letter reads: “I hereby give notice of my resignation from the position of Mayor of the City of Charlotte, effective immediately. In light of the charges that have been brought against me, it is my judgment 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.”
The letter continued, “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.”
Cannon concluded, “I regret that I have to take this action, but I believe that is is in the best of the City for me to do so.”
It will now be up to City Council to choose Cannon’s replacement, who must be a resident of the city and from the same party as Cannon, a Democrat. Similar action was taken when former Mayor Anthony Foxx left his position to become secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation. City Councilmember Patsy Kinsey, who was not at the press conference Wednesday, served out the remainder of Foxx’s term, handing over the reins of the mayor’s office to Cannon this past December.
Cannon was the longest-serving member of local government, first elected in 1993. He was elected mayor in November 2013 and sworn-in in December.
Cannon’s mayoral campaign last year elicited a variety of responses among community members, voters and the media. qnotes endorsed neither him nor his Republican opponent Edwin Peacock. At the time, qnotes said neither candidate were strong enough on issues of importance to LGBT residents. The Charlotte Observer endorsed Peacock. Charlotte’s Creative Loafing endorsed neither of the candidates.
Statement from the Charlotte City Council
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.