Democratic Charlotte, N.C. Mayor Patrick Cannon allegedly promised he would use a meeting with President Barack Obama to press for streetcar project funding that was a major concern for someone who gave him multiple bribes, according to federal court documents.
The alleged vow to push the president was detailed in an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Eric Davis filed in federal court Wednesday in support of a criminal complaint that accused the mayor of “soliciting and accepting things of value — namely over $US480,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room, and the use of a luxury apartment” from undercover FBI agents posing as business people in exchange for political favours. Cannon was arrested and hit with federal corruption charges stemming from these allegations Wednesday.
According to Davis, an undercover FBI agent who gave Cannon $US12,500 subsequently introduced him to another undercover agent who posed as a “real estate developer from Las Vegas.” This introduction occurred at a meeting on May 23 of last year, two days after Cannon, who was then a member of the City Council and Mayor Pro Tem, announced his mayoral bid. At that meeting, the undercover agent said he was interested in building mixed-use developments along the path of the Gold Line, a streetcar line the Charlotte City Council had approved that month. The Council greenlit $US63 million to build the Gold Line that was contingent on $US63 million in federal matching funds. Eight days after the initial meeting, Davis said Cannon took the undercover agent on a tour of the planned route of the streetcar line. Following their tour, Davis said the undercover agent asked Cannon to travel to Las Vegas to vouch for him at a meeting with what he described as foreign investors.
Cannon and his wife allegedly made that trip last July 1. Davis said their hotel and travel expenses were paid for by the undercover agent who also gave them $US6,000 cash. At the meeting in Las Vegas, Davis said Cannon falsely represented himself as a longtime associate of the undercover agent and said he would help with permits and other issues that came up in conjunction with the agent’s real estate projects. After the meeting, Davis said Cannon accepted another $US10,000 from the undercover agent.
On December 2, 2013, Cannon was elected mayor. Nine days later, Davis said Cannon met with both undercover agents at their apartment in Charlotte. Davis said Cannon had repeatedly asked the agents for keys to the apartment and, at this meeting, the agent who had posed as the Vegas developer told Cannon he “had not frequently used the apartment and intended to end the lease, but was willing to continue paying the $US2,100 monthly rent for the apartment if Cannon wanted to use the apartment.” After Cannon was given the keys, they also allegedly discussed the Gold Line funding and Cannon’s intention to press President Obama on the issue.
According to Davis, Cannon told the undercover agent the $US63 million in federal matching funds for the streetcar line “went away.” However, Davis said Cannon promised to “go after” another “pot of money” and vowed to discuss the issue during an upcoming meeting with the president.
“So, you know, Friday I’m meeting with the President,” Cannon said, according to the affidavit. “Well, first I’m meeting with the Secretaries, all the Secretaries. And then, I’ll be meeting with the President and the President will be asking what my priorities are. I’m gonna say the Gold LYNX Line’s a priority and I want to see that through.”
Davis said the undercover agent responded to this by telling Cannon he was “operating at quite a level.” Cannon was part of a delegation of newly-elected mayors who visited the White House last Dec. 13, two days after this conversation allegedly occurred. Business Insider called Cannon’s office Wednesday to ask about the charges and a spokeswoman who identified herself only as Phyllis declined to comment on anything relating to the allegations.
You can read more about the case against Cannon and see Davis’ full affidavit here.