Defend Charlotte: Corruption Impact on QC
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Detroit. New Orleans. Chicago. Charlotte? Patrick Cannon's corruption charges are the Queen City's most scandalous brush with the crime and, for the first time since the Democratic National Convention, put us back in the national news spotlight.
But corruption certainly isn't new in the Charlotte area. In 2005, an FBI agent in Charlotte resigned and took a plea deal after being accused of accepting thousands of dollars in gifts and travel expenses from an informant. In 2009, two CMPD officers were sentenced to nine years in federal prison for doing business with a known drug dealer. In February, a handful of Cherryville police officers were sentenced to a couple years in federal prison for accepting bribes. And now, the Cannon case.
"The incidents we've had in this last year and a few years before, it's hard to say that indicates a set pattern of corruption, but it definitely raises a few red flags," says Winthrop University Political Science Professor Dr. Scott Huffmon. He says Charlotte's economic profile has grown over the years. We are now seen as a business, banking, finance, and energy community." So, the integrity of the elected officials, the integrity of the government, is integral to new businesses wanting to come in," he says.
A Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman tells WCCB it has a public relations partnership with three other business organizations. They held an emergency meeting the week of Cannon's arrest and decided to submit an op-ed piece to the Charlotte Business Journal. The spokeswoman says Cannon's arrest "hasn't been an issue at all since" due to Charlotte's manager-style government as well as affordability, business climate, quality of life, and the airport.
Huffmon says, "I do believe it's not changed anything now. If it does have an impact, it will be lagged. It would be with companies that might come here in two or three years. It takes a while to relocate, that are looking at it now, saying, 'Is this a place I wanna be?'"
The collateral damage of corruption extends beyond business. "[A] Corruption allegation(s), I know, is one in which judges take very seriously because they feel like it rips at the fabric of our society," says criminal defense attorney Chris Fialko. He represented the corrupt FBI agent in 2005 and a corrupt CMPD cop in 2009. He says Charlotte doesn't have an underlying corruption problem--yet--and that cases, like Cannon's, send a clear message to the entire community. Fialko says, "It certainly shows the FBI's not afraid of going after somebody very publicly known."
WCCB asked the FBI and the US Department of Justice for interviews about corruption in Charlotte. Both agencies declined, citing on-going investigations.