© 2024 WFAE

Mailing Address:
8801 J.M. Keynes Dr. Ste. 91
Charlotte NC 28262
Tax ID: 56-1803808
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
The 2022 midterm elections are the first of the Biden era. They're also the first since the 2020 census, which means there are new congressional districts. There are U.S. Senate races in the Carolinas as well, along with many state and local races.

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.

James Mitchell
City of Charlotte
James Mitchell

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.

Bright House Capital says James Mitchell no longer owns 25 percent of RJ Leeper construction
City of Charlotte
Bright House Capital says James Mitchell no longer owns 25 percent of RJ Leeper construction

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.

Sign up for our weekly politics newsletter

Select Your Email Format

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.