Charlotte mayor resigns following corruption arrest

Patrick Cannon
Patrick Cannon, Democratic candidate for mayor, center, talks with students at Queens University in Charlotte, N.C. Cannon was arrested by FBI agents Wednesday for allegedly violating federal public corruption laws, announced the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, N.C.

Democratic Charlotte Mayor Patrick DeAngelo Cannon resigned Wednesday, just hours after he was arrested by FBI agents for allegedly violating federal public corruption laws.

"I hereby give notice of my resignation from this position of the mayor of the city of Charlotte, effective immediately," Cannon wrote in a letter to city manager Ron Carlee and attorney Bob Hagemann. "I regret that I have to take his action, but I believe that it is in the best interest of the city for me to do so."

Cannon, the longest-serving elected official in North Carolina’s largest city, faces charges for theft and bribery, honest services wire fraud and extortion, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, N.C., said Wednesday. The arrest was the culmination of a three-and-a-half year investigation that found multiple instances where the mayor had accepted cash from undercover agents in exchange for special access to officials with planning, zoning, and permitting responsibilities. If convicted, Cannon is looking at a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines, according to NBC affiliate WCNC. He is currently out a on $25,000 unsecured bond.

Cannon replaced Anthony Foxx as mayor of Charlotte last November after a long career in city council. First elected in 1993 at age 26, Cannon became the youngest council member in city history. He is also the founder of E-Z parking, a parking management company.

According to a criminal complaint, Cannon accepted more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room, and the use of a luxury apartment. The FBI said he pocketed money from undercover agents posing as businessmen on five separate occasions since January, 2013. The most recent occurrence was last month, when he took $20,000 in cash in the mayor’s office as part of an agreement to help an FBI agent, posing as a Las Vegas developer, net foreign investors, the affidavit states.

After an initial court appearance Wednesday, Cannon declined to comment on the charges, telling a WCNC-TV reporter, “At this point, there’s nothing to respond to.”

The investigation began in August, 2010, after a tip that Cannon -- then, a city councilman -- was potentially involved in illegal activities. Less than six months after moving into the mayor’s office, he is now the region’s highest-ranking official to face charges on a corruption case since 2007, notes the Charlotte Observer, when House Speaker Jim Black pleaded guilty to accepting nearly $30,000 from three chiropractors while championing legislation they supported.

Cannon was raised in housing projects by his single mother, Carmen, after his father was found dead of a gunshot wound when he was five years old. As a teenager, Cannon met Phil McCrory, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s older brother, in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The two became close friends.

Gov. McCrory told the Associated Press he was saddened and angered by the charges against Cannon, whom he had known for more than 30 years.

"But more than anything, my heart is broken for the city of Charlotte," McCrory said. "This is not the city that I know, served and love. This alleged behavior is inexcusable and cannot be tolerated."