Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, who had been in office only six months, resigned Wednesday effective immediately, just hours after he was arrested and accused of taking more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as real estate developers and investors wanting to do business with North Carolina's largest city.
According to a press release from U.S. attorney Anne Tompkins' office, the 47-year-old Democrat accepted the bribes "in exchange for the use of his official office."
Cannon has been charged with accepting more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room, and the use of a luxury apartment between January 2013 and February 2014. He also solicited more than $1 million more in bribes. If convicted on all charges, Cannon faces up to 50 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines.
He is accused of accepting bribes on five separate occasions. In the most recent instance, Cannon allegedly accepted $20,000 in cash in the mayor's office on February 21, 2014. The mayor accepted the cash in exchange for access to city officials responsible for planning, zoning and permitting, the criminal complaint said.
He reportedly accepted the cash in a leather briefcase, handed over as part of a negotiation in which investigators said he was angling for a one percent kickback on $125 million in investments linked to development deals in the city.
Cannon apparently accepted the suitcase only after he expressed concern that city hall employees would notice that the undercover agent was leaving without the briefcase.
“I just got to be conscious about that kind of stuff here, you know,” he allegedly whispered to the agent.
According to a city spokesperson, Mayor Cannon resigned Wednesday evening effective immediately, just hours after his arrest. Cannon submitted his letter of resignation to the city manager and attorney, and said in the letter that pending charges would be too much of a distraction for the business of the city to remain in office.
"I hereby give notice of my resignation from the position of the Mayor of the City of Charlotte, effective immediately. In light of the charges that have been brought against me, it is my judgment that the pendency of these charges will create too much of a distraction for the business of the City to go forward smoothly and without interruption," Cannon wrote in the letter.
"I regret that I have to take this action, but I believe that it is in the best interest of the City for me to do so," he continued.
Federal authorities started their investigation in August 2010 after receiving a tip from a local undercover officer about public corruption. FBI agents posed as commercial real estate developers and investors throughout the investigation, interested in doing business in the North Carolina city, according to Tompkins.
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