Local Politics

Ex-SBI agent: Greed, power at heart of public corruption cases

Posted March 27
Updated March 28

— Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon is the only latest in a string of North Carolina leaders accused of betraying their public office.

Cannon, 47, resigned Wednesday night, hours after he was arrested and charged with taking more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do work with Charlotte.

The Democrat, who was elected last November, took cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and the use of a luxury apartment as bribes and solicited more than $1 million more, according to a criminal complaint from the U.S. Attorney's office.

"There's no right way to do the wrong thing," investigative consultant Randy Myers said Thursday.

Myers, who spent 25 years at the State Bureau of Investigation, where he worked public corruption cases against former House Speaker Jim Black and former state Rep. Thomas Wright, said he was impressed by the FBI's undercover and surveillance work in the Cannon case.

"The resources that they, the FBI and the government, brought to bear were quite considerable," Myers said.

The FBI rented a Charlotte apartment for undercover agents to use for meetings with Cannon, taped encounters and phone calls and even had agents meet him in Las Vegas to discuss planning, zoning and permitting issues for a proposed nightclub, according to the criminal complaint.

Myers was lead investigator in the state's 2007 case against Black. Prosecutors say the former speaker bribed Rep. Michael Decker to switch parties, which enabled Black to hold on to a share of his power in an evenly divided House.

"They're fascinating cases, but on the other hand, they're very disheartening, disillusioning, what you find out. You expect better from our leaders," Myers said. "We have to hold them accountable to make sure they do the right thing. They need to be watched. They need to be scrutinized."

He points out that the public has heard only one side of the case so far. Cannon hasn't commented and deserves his day in court, he said.

Still, Myers said he sees similarities in all public corruption cases.

"There's always a motive – why are they going to do this? Something pushes them over the edge. Sometimes it's greed, money, power," he said.

According to the complaint, FBI agents posing as commercial real estate developers paid Cannon on five separate occasions between January 2013 and February 2014, including once in the mayor's office. Cannon accepted cash in exchange for access to city officials.

While working with the undercover agents, Cannon also touted his close relationship with Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who served as Charlotte mayor for 14 years, and a trip to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama and other administration officials, according to the complaint.

McCrory, who has known Cannon's family for more than 30 years, said Thursday that he was deeply hurt by the allegations of corruption.

"The wound is still fresh," he said. "There's a personal wound that's going to take a lot of time to recover, but my relationship to the city is the relationship I care about most."

Charlotte officials are now scrambling to find a new mayor.

19 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • glarg Mar 28, 5:35 p.m.

    Remember: Nancy Pelosi famously promised to "drain the moral swamp" and end the "culture of... View More

    — Posted by davidhartman

    As soon as you give government power, politicians sell it.

    How is it credible that someone would need to pay $10,000 for a business license? What is the city doing so badly that someone would be willing to pay that much for a routine government service?

  • tatermommy52 Mar 28, 3:52 p.m.

    With less Dems in office one would think they would be less scandals.

  • jhk0704 Mar 28, 2:24 p.m.

    "...You expect better from our leaders," Myers said. "We have to hold them accountable to make... View More

    — Posted by WRALModzDeleteOurComments

    Agreed this is NOT a Party issue at all. Sadly this goes on A LOT and is not caught at all levels of government

  • WRALModzDeleteOurComments Mar 28, 1:56 p.m.

    "...You expect better from our leaders," Myers said. "We have to hold them accountable to make sure they do the right thing. They need to be watched. They need to be scrutinized."

    AMEN!!!

    And at the first sign of corruption, they need to go regardless of the party they represent or their race, religion, etc., because every citizen in this country deserves better than liars, cheats and thieves representing them in public office.

  • davidhartman Mar 28, 1:38 p.m.

    Remember: Nancy Pelosi famously promised to "drain the moral swamp" and end the "culture of corruption." She cast herself and her minions as America's political clean-up crew. But once again, the culture of corruption boomerang has swung back around to smack Democrats in their smug mugs. The cynical Swamp Drainers just hope you forget it all by election time. Don't.

  • Hill55 Mar 28, 12:24 p.m.

    And the head of the SBI, Roy Cooper, wants to be governor.

    — Posted by tatermommy52

    Same party. Hear no evil, see no evil. Just like the lamestream press coverage of Obama.

  • raleighboy524 Mar 28, 12:08 p.m.

    "While working with the undercover agents, Cannon also touted his close relationship with Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who served as Charlotte mayor for 14 years, and a trip to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama and other administration officials, according to the complaint."

    Wow, this is really gonna get interesting.

  • disgusted2010 Mar 28, 11:44 a.m.

    RAL has 3 reporters pumping on non-stories about 'dark money' 24x7 and they completely whiff on... View More

    — Posted by glarg

    This appeared to be more of a sting operation, not your standard investigative reporting... View More

    — Posted by downtowner

    This was an actual investigation. Not just listening to a disgruntled person giving a "tip" finding some basic information or quotes to take out of context and then adding innuendo and "convicting" the person in the media. This case will go to a real court and not just the court of public opinion.

  • glarg Mar 28, 11:15 a.m.

    RAL has 3 reporters pumping on non-stories about 'dark money' 24x7 and they completely whiff on... View More

    — Posted by glarg

    This appeared to be more of a sting operation, not your standard investigative reporting... View More

    — Posted by downtowner

    We are talking about suit cases full of cash! You cant tell me that no one in the news media knew Cannon was "open for business". Reporters in San Diego knew for years what kind of person Filner was but they purposefully covered it up.

    "Dark Money (boo!) are legal contribution and have been protected by the Supreme Court, yet we get wall to wall coverage of those. Some of the stories are ok, some of them, like the Builder Fund, are down right ridiculous.

    But regardless there is actual corruption that is being ignored in a chase after reporting on legal activity.

  • tatermommy52 Mar 28, 10:51 a.m.

    And the head of the SBI, Roy Cooper, wants to be governor.

More...