Documents say Charlotte City Council candidate James Mitchell didn't repay $375,000 loan
In this year’s Charlotte City Council election, one of the biggest issues has been former council member James Mitchell’s relationship with R.J. Leeper Construction. That’s a minority-owned business that does work with the city.
New documents released by the city show that Mitchell failed to repay a $375,000 loan — and that an investor in the company said Mitchell has forfeited his ownership stake in the construction firm.
The news was first reported by the Charlotte Business Journal.
Mitchell’s ownership stake is important because R.J. Leeper is one of the city’s largest minority-owned subcontractors. It’s part of a $600 million contract to rebuild the main terminal at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
In early 2021, Bright House Capital announced it was investing in R.J. Leeper. One of Bright House’s investors was former Bank of America chief executive Hugh McColl. Leeper announced that Mitchell — who was an at-large City Council member — would serve as chief executive and have a 25% ownership in the firm.
Mitchell had assumed he would be able to recuse himself from any vote involving Leeper. But state law saysthat if an elected official owns at least 10% of a company then that company can’t do business with the city.
Mitchell then resigned from City Council. In the summer of 2021, Leeper announced he had left the firm.
Mitchell announced this year he would run for his old seat on City Council. He said he still owned a 25% share in R.J. Leeper. He said the company could either forego city business — or buy him out.
Three is a dispute between Mitchell and Bright House Capital executives as to whether Mitchell still owns that share.
Bright House investor Malcolmb Coley loaned Mitchell $375,000 in December 2020, according to the documents. He demanded repayment a year later.
In March of this year, Coley told Mitchell he was taking Mitchell's share of the company as collateral for the loan.
Mitchell told WFAE that he still believes he owns 25% of Leeper.
Mitchell is one of six Democrats running for four at-large City Council seats in Tuesday's primary.