When the mayor of Charlotte, Patrick Cannon, was arrested this week on charges that he took bribes from undercover FBI agents, we wanted to know how the governor and state politicians reacted to the news.
The FBI's complaint, which said Cannon accepted $48,500 in cash and luxury expenses "in exchange for the use of his official position," quoted him saying he had direct access to Gov. Pat McCrory, who was mayor of Charlotte for 14 years, and Bob Rucho, a state senator from Charlotte.
As the News & Observer reported, Cannon was a long-time friend of McCrory's brother Phil, who was Cannon's mentor in the Big Brother's Big Sister's program. The newspaper quoted McCrory saying that he knew Cannon for more than 30 years and helped teach him to swim. Here's the direct quote:
“He was very close to me and my family,” he said. He paused, looking anguished. “I’m just extremely disappointed and angry.”
Another person that Cannon, a Democrat, said he had access to was Rucho, a prominent Republican who represents Charlotte in the General Assembly. The highest profile project they worked on was to figure out whether the city of Charlotte should be the only local government to oversee Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Rucho told a reporter from the Charlotte Business Journal on Thursday that the work on the airport oversight was to "prevent any type of politics or cronyism." In response to the FBI report, Rucho said about Cannon simply: "He was name-dropping."
State senators and representatives from Charlotte and adjacent Mecklenburg County were cautious with their reaction.
Rep. Kelly Alexander, a Democrat, emphasized that the office of the mayor in Charlotte is a largely ceremonial one because the appointed city manager runs the daily operations of the city, and the mayor has a vote in city council only to break a tie. Alexander also emphasized that Cannon should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
Rep. Charles Jeter, a Republican, said he expected Cannon's arrest to increase the level of scrutiny for elected officials across the state, and that the arrest was bruising to the reputation of politicians of any party.
"There's no winners in this equation," Jeter said. "You've got a gentleman whose life is going to change dramatically. It's not good for the city, it's not good for politicans, it's not good for anything."
Related: Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, who served in the position from 1983 to 1987, gives his reaction to Charlotte NPR affiliate WFAE-FM.