Charlotte Ex-Mayor Set to Plead Guilty in Corruption Case

The former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, the state’s largest city and home to Bank of America Corp., is set to plead guilty today to taking bribes from businessmen seeking preferential treatment from the city.

Patrick Cannon, a Democrat, is accused of accepting more than $50,000 in cash plus use of an apartment and other benefits to help a Charlotte strip club owner and two undercover FBI agents posing as real estate investors.

The single felony charge against Cannon was unsealed yesterday in federal court in Charlotte in a criminal information, a document that usually signals a plea deal. He was originally charged in a three-count criminal complaint on March 26.

Cannon allegedly assisted one of the agents, who said he was seeking to open a bar, navigate city regulations. He lobbied potential investors and local officials in favor of a commercial real estate development purportedly pursued by the second agent, according to prosecutors. He also used his influence to help the owner of the strip club, which was in the path of a light rail line, to relocate his business, the government said.

A plea hearing is scheduled for today and a sealed plea agreement is listed in the court record for Cannon’s case.

James Ferguson, Cannon’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message requesting comment on the possible plea.

Criminal Charge

The activity underlying the criminal charge against Cannon occurred from late 2009 until March 26, when he resigned. That includes part of Cannon’s tenure as a city councilman and his service as mayor, an office he was elected to in November.

Cannon, 47, allegedly accepted $20,000 in cash delivered to the mayor’s office on February 21.

The chief executive officer of a parking business, Cannon defeated Republican former city councilman Ed Peacock, taking 53 percent of the vote to his oppponent’s 47 percent to become mayor. He replaced Patsy Kinsey, who was appointed in July after Mayor Anthony Foxx was appointed U.S. Transportation Secretary by President Barack Obama.

In 1993, Cannon became the youngest person ever elected to the city council and he went on to win re-election to that seat three times and served four more terms as the at-large member and mayor pro tem, according to his campaign website.

Charlotte has a council-manager form of government, meaning Cannon’s role was to preside over council meetings and represent the city. He can’t issue orders to city employees, according to City Manager Ron Carlee.

The case is U.S. v. Cannon, 14-cr-87, U.S. District Court, Western District of North Carolina (Charlotte).