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How Patrick Cannonís arrest, resignation will affect Charlotte
Fallout from Cannon's downfall has far reaching implications
 
Published Wednesday, April 2, 2014
by Michaela L. Duckett

Many will regard March 26 as a sad day for Charlotte. On that day, the city’s then-mayor, Patrick DeAngelo Cannon, was arrested on federal charges of corruption and accused of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as investors.

Within hours, the news spread like wild fire across social media as folks around Charlotte took to Facebook and Twitter to express their shock, awe and disgust at the disgraced mayor’s downfall.

Many referenced quotes attributed to Cannon in the 48-page complaint filed by U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins. At times the affidavit read more like a script from “American Hustle” or “House of Cards,” than real life.

At one point, it reads that Cannon said he didn’t want to do anything that would land him in jail because he looked good “in an orange necktie, but not an orange suit.” By Wednesday night, a Twitter profile with the handle @PatCannonsOrangeTie had been created. The affidavit also mentioned that Cannon was soliciting funds to start up a company to sell a feminine hygiene product that he allegedly called “HERS,” which spawned a mock ad on YouTube to sell the product.

While some people were not at all surprised by the allegations of corruption in politics, many were in disbelief that the longtime council member found himself at the center of such a scandal.

“The people in the Mayor’s office and on [Charlotte City] Council genuinely looked shocked,” said Susan Roberts, associate professor of political science at Davidson College. “I think that was a sad day. These are people that trusted Patrick Cannon and have worked with him.”

By now, some of the initial shock has waned as the City presses on with business as usual. However the fallout from Cannon’s arrest and resignation is far reaching and could potentially impact Charlotte for several years. Here’s how:

A BLEMISH FOR THE QUEEN CITY: “Once again, Charlotte is in the national spotlight, and to in the least the way that we want it to be,” said Roberts. “There are a number of other cities – such as New Orleans, Chicago, Boston and Providence, R.I. – that we recognize for the corruption in city politics. Now you can just add Charlotte’s name to that list.”

INCREASED SCRUTINY: Cannon’s arrest is likely just the tip of the iceberg in a long, ongoing investigation that has been underway since 2010. He has yet to be officially indicted, but it is possible that once he is, others could also be named and accused of misconduct. The investigation is still active.

Throughout the affidavit, Cannon is quoted as bragging about his influence over several city departments, even allegedly sending the undercover agents directly to city staffers that he allegedly said he strategically put in place to do his bidding. Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee has not ruled out the possibility of an internal investigation to see if any current staffers could be guilty of misconduct in relation to the case against Cannon.

It is also unclear if Cannon’s wife, Trenna, will face charges. She is also mentioned in the affidavit. According to the complaint, she spoke with one of the agent’s by phone, thanking the agent for a $1,000 gift, given during an all-expense-paid trip to Vegas. On another occasion, the document alleges that Cannon attempted to negotiate for his wife to get a percentage of a bribe he allegedly solicited.

ERROSION OF TRUST IN GOVERNMENT: “Public trust has been violated,” said Roberts. “As voters, we look to people, unfortunately, like Patrick Cannon as one of the safer choices for office. You would think that him having served in public office since 1993, if there were some thing there, it would have been vetted or come to light.”

Roberts said it serves as a reminder to voters to do their due diligence in finding out as much as they can about candidates before casting their votes. She said she was surprised that Cannon’s decision in 2005 to remove himself from local politics for a period of time and accusations of holding closed-door meetings with the Charlotte Panthers prior to his election as mayor didn’t raise more questions. WSOCTV has reported that Cannon was in trouble with the IRS after failing to pay thousands of dollars in taxes. Roberts said it all just goes to show that in the future, voters need to dig a little deeper.

SETBACK FOR BLACK PEOPLE OR NOT: Many are concerned about the negative impact Cannon’s tainted image could have on the Black community. “We are just to the point now where we are establishing some credibility in Charlotte,” said Leon Thompson of Charlotte. “With him being in a high profile position like that and to have something like this occur, it’s got to be a sad day for us.”

Lois Brown works for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, and said she was “disheartened” to hear the news about Cannon because of what it meant for the children who looked up to him. “We are really trying to show them to be positive role models in the community,” she said. “So to have something like this happen is devastating.”

Others argue that Cannon’s troubles are no reflection on black people in general.

“He’s not the first politician, black or white, to get caught up in this kind of stuff,” said Greg Soons of Charlotte. “It didn’t happen because he’s a person of color. He just happened to be another politician that got caught up. It has nothing to do with us, people of color.”

BAD FOR BUSINESS: At a time when Charlotte seeks to assert herself as a World Class City and ideal location for businesses to locate company headquarters, the Cannon scandal can create problems. “Companies are always looking for good public relations, and I think this creates a blemish for Charlotte,” said Roberts. “If I were a corporation, I would kind of delay plans and wait to see what happens. I don’t know if that will happen, but if you look at how extensive this is, in terms of the nightclubs and the many things that he’s alleged to have promised to move forward and make a priority, it’s enough, I think, to make business and corporations think twice about jumping in and choosing Charlotte, at least in the short term.”

A NEW MAYOR: For the time being, the Queen City is a city without a mayor. City council is now tasked with finding someone to fill Cannon’s seat. The newly appointed mayor will be the City’s fourth in the past year and serve out the remainder of Cannon’s term, which is about 20 months. An appointment will likely be made at next City Council meeting, April 7.

 

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