Nation 03-27-14 Charlotte mayor resigns; accused of taking bribes, charged with corruption

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, who has been in office less than six months, resigned Wednesday, just hours after he was arrested and accused of taking more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do work with North Carolina's largest city.

Cannon submitted his resignation letter to city manager Ron Carlee and city attorney Bob Hagemann, Charlotte spokesman Keith Richardson said in an email. The 47-year-old Cannon is charged with bribery and public corruption. The Democrat 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.

Cannon said in his resignation letter that the pending charges "will create too much of a distraction" for the business of the city to go forward. He said it was effective immediately.

"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 said.

Cannon did not respond to telephone messages seeking comment. He had an initial court appearance Wednesday and was released on $25,000 unsecured bond.

Two Boston firefighters killed: A fire driven by strong winds raced through a brownstone on Wednesday, trapping and killing two firefighters in the basement, where their colleagues could not rescue them. Thirteen other firefighters were injured in the blaze, and several police officers also were taken to hospitals. Some residents had to be rescued from the upper floors of the four-story apartment building, but none was hurt, city officials said.

Agree on Medicare fees: Congressional leaders agreed Wednesday on legislation to avert a threatened 24 percent cut in fees to doctors who treat Medicare patients, and said votes were likely in both houses before Monday's deadline. The legislation would prevent the cut for 12 months. The heavily-lobbied measure also contains numerous other health care provisions of interest to doctors, hospitals, drug companies and other health care providers. The House was on track to vote today under special expedited procedures that require a two-thirds vote to pass, and there was at least some uncertainty that the measure would advance; Senate action also was uncertain.

Wants focus to be on friend: Jamie Olson Renfro, the mother of a Grand Junction, Colo., third-grader who shaved her head in solidarity with a cancer-stricken friend is asking for an end to the national furor over a school's short-lived decision to bar the girl from campus, so the focus can shift to the recovery of her 11-year-old friend. The board of directors of the charter school, the Caprock Academy, voted Tuesday to let Kamryn Renfro remain. Officials had earlier barred her, saying she violated the dress code by shaving her head over the weekend. The Denver Post (https://tinyurl.com/ov9gfhc) reported Wednesday that Kamryn's mother took her daughter to Denver Tuesday to be with her friend ahead of a hospital visit. Olson Renfro called on people who have been following the story to think of Delaney Clements, who has been fighting childhood cancer since she was 7. "Delaney is still in the fight of her life, and needs as much love, support and prayers as she can get," Olson Renfro told the Post. Delaney, bald from chemotherapy, told the Post that having friends willing to shave their heads made it easier to withstand teasing about her appearance.

Rush to pass bill to aid Ukraine: Lawmakers are rushing to get a bill to the president's desk that would provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and sanction those who had a hand in Russia's takeover of Crimea. The House and Senate are poised to pass versions of the legislation today. Both sides say they want to get one bill to President Barack Obama's desk before the end of the week, but it's unclear whether the work will be finished by then.

To phase out animal antibiotics: Twenty-five pharmaceutical companies are voluntarily phasing out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in animals processed for meat, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday. Citing a potential threat to public health, the agency in December asked 26 companies to voluntarily stop labeling drugs important for treating human infection as acceptable for animal growth promotion. The FDA did not name the one company that has not agreed to withdraw or revise its drugs. The companies will either withdraw the drugs from animal use completely or revise them so they would only be able to be used with a veterinarian's prescription.

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