HUNTERSVILLE – Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s March 26 arrest and subsequent resignation sent shockwaves through Mecklenburg County.
Cannon, a Charlotte native and former city councilman, was arrested on public corruption charges of theft and bribery. Cannon, according to an affidavit, received $48,000 in money and gifts in exchange for using his influence as mayor to help FBI agents disguised as real-estate moguls.
Lake Norman-area leaders believe the incident has no ill effects north of Charlotte.
"This was an anomaly," Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain said. "It's a huge step back for the former mayor, but it's not a step back for the rest of us."
Cannon was the youngest city councilman ever elected to office in 1993, when the Democrat was just 26. He served on the N.C. Metro Mayors Coalition with Swain.
Cannon’s downfall after a three-year FBI investigation into reported under-the-table agreements and bribery scandals, made national news. It also gave the region a less-than-stellar image, but it's something Huntersville Commissioner Ron Julian believes can be repaired.
“Public service is about serving the greater good in the community,” Julian said. “Can this be one incident that we can learn from and grow from? I hope so and I think so.”
Swain said Huntersville's leadership has been nothing but ethical in her time as a public servant.
Cornelius commissioner David Gilroy, who has served on the town board for nine years, said that when Cannon’s mistakes were made public, it could have eroded some confidence in local politics.
“It’s just deeply disappointing,” Gilroy said. “That was black-and-white unethical. Nothing was ethical about what he did.”
Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice discussed the Cannon incident with commissioners in the town board’s April 1 meeting. Brice gave each commissioner a copy of the town’s code of ethics, as well.
It’s not a bad idea to point out if a fellow politician seems to be overstepping boundaries, Davidson Mayor John Woods said.
“You staff have to recognize and feel comfortable that if you ever recognize an impropriety on anybody’s part, whether it’s my part or any of these five commissioners or future bodies in our places, you need to have the right and the authority to stop and say ‘No, that doesn’t smell right, and I'm going to talk to my manager,’” Woods said. “That’s true in any organization. I’ll call it an impropriety or potential impropriety. There needs to be room for you all to say ‘Stop,’ and that’s OK. You shouldn’t be fearful of doing that.”
Carrie C. Causey contributed to this story.