Mayor Cannon Resigns After Arrest On Federal Bribery Charges
UPDATE: 7:30 a.m. Thursday
Charlotte mayor Patrick Cannon has resigned after the FBI arrested him Wednesday on federal corruption charges.
The federal criminal complaint says the FBI received a tip in August 2010 from local law enforcement that Cannon was potentially involved in illegal activities and public corruption. The FBI began an undercover investigation posing as commercial real estate developers and investors looking to do business in Charlotte.
Between January 2013 and February 2014, Cannon allegedly accepted $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room, and use of a luxury apartment in exchange for the use of his official position.
The complaint says the last time Cannon accepted cash was in the mayor's office on February 21, 2014, in the amount of $20,000.
Cannon had his initial court appearance today and was released on $25,000 bond, pending indictment.
According to the FBI complaint, during a meeting on January 17, 2013, Cannon was given $12,500 in cash by an undercover agent for a bar/nightclub project after Cannon said he could help him get through zoning, permitting and other red tape.
When he was presented the cash, Cannon looked nervously towards the window and covered the money with a folder. The undercover agent then closed the window blinds. Cannon then "placed the money near his ear and fanned the bills."
Cannon faces maximum sentences of 10 and 20 years in prison and up to $1.5 million in fines for charges of theft, bribery, wire fraud and extortion. He was first elected to City Council in 1993 and took office as mayor in December 2013.
Update: 7:30 p.m.
Mayor Patrick Cannon submitted his resignation letter addressed to city manager Ron Carlee and city attorney Bob Hagemann. City Council will now need to appoint a mayor to fulfill the remainder of Cannon's term.
"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," Cannon wrote. "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."
Here's the full text of that letter: Mayor Patrick Cannon Resignation Letter
Update: 6:30 p.m.
Several city leaders, including Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes and City Manager Ron Carlee, gathered at the Government Center for a brief press conference.
"His arrest came as a complete surprise to the city council and the city manager," Barnes said. "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."
WFAE's Tom Bullock covered that press conference. Here, he updates WFAE's Mark Rumsey on the case:
Update: 4:45 p.m.
And here's raw audio from that press conference:
City manager Ron Carlee says the news was a "shock to all of the city staff," but that he has spoken with Mayor Cannon and told him his thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. City Council Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes read a statement at the Government Center and said Cannon will remain mayor unless he resigns or is convicted of a felony. Carlee says he did not yet ask him to resign.
"We will fully cooperate, made it clear that we will take every safeguard possible to ensure that our records are preserved," Carlee says.
"It is actually illegal for the mayor to give directives of any form, whether they are of a lawful or unlawful nature, to a city staff," Carlee said. "It's my expectation that employees continue to operate with honesty and integrity and to not be distracted by the arrest and to really keep focused on providing the people of this city the services that we're obligated and committed to preserving them."
Update: 4:00 p.m.
WFAE's Tom Bullock is at the Government Center waiting to speak to city council members and possibly City Manager Ron Carlee. Tom describes what's happening Uptown while Ben Bradford provides more details on the FBI's case against Cannon:
Update: 3:04 p.m.
Governor Pat McCrory, a former mayor of Charlotte, released a statement:
“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. This is not the city that I know, served and love. This alleged behavior is inexcusable and cannot be tolerated.”