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Who will be Charlotte’s new mayor?
Search continues as council defers vote
 
Published Tuesday, April 1, 2014
by Michaela L. Duckett

The tone of Monday’s Charlotte City Council meeting was somewhat solemn, as former mayor Patrick Cannon’s seat at the center of the dais literally sat vacant with his nameplate removed.

Cannon resigned March 26, hours after being arrested on charges of corruption and amid allegations of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as investors. Monday's meeting – the first since Cannon's resignation – had just one item on the agenda: filling his seat. 

But no appointment was made.

Michael Barnes speaks to the press after city council meeting

The meeting lasted approximately 30 minutes as Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes’ motion to defer the vote until the council’s April 7 meeting was unanimously approved.

 

“It’s still a very challenging experience for me to go through this,” Barnes said when asked how it felt being seated next to Cannon’s empty chair. “I never thought this would happen, and so it’s not easy, but I’ve got a job to do.”

Barnes said filling the mayor’s seat “is probably the most important thing to happen in Charlotte in decades.” He said the decision to defer the vote was made because it was important to allow council members more time for discussion and reflection.

“We want to act quickly but thoughtfully,” Barnes said, adding that council members had received several emails and phone calls from citizens, some of which advocated for a special election.

City Attorney Bob Hagemann explained at Monday’s meeting that the only way a special election could be held was by permission of the North Carolina General Assembly through the passage of legislation.

To which Barnes replied: “I don’t think we need to ask the legislature to help us fill this vacancy.”

Someone from the audience shouted “Why not?”

“Because I don’t think we do,” Barnes quipped.

Barnes, who will act as mayor in the interim, said citizens could possibly have an opportunity to give input on the decision during a public hearing at the next meeting. However, at this point, a hearing is not officially on the agenda.

When Barnes was asked by reporters who was currently under consideration for the position, he mentioned former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts and former council member James Mitchell, who lost to Cannon last year in the Democratic mayoral primary. However, there is no official “short list” as other names are also being considered.

Hagemann made it a point during the meeting to emphasize the new mayor would not be an interim mayor.

“Law in North Carolina does not recognize ‘interim,’” he said. As such, he said whomever council choses to appoint “will be the mayor, and by state law will have all powers and duties of a mayor who is elected.”

The mayor will serve the remainder of Cannon’s unexpired term, which is about 20 months.

In the meantime, Barnes vowed that he and his colleagues would work to restore public trust and continue with the normal operations of city government.

“Our form of government is designed to be resilient and undaunted by the acts of a single person,” he said. “Our staff will continue to serve with integrity and work hard.”

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