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Ethics Complaints Filed Against Two Council Members

Brett Jensen
August 07, 2020 - 12:04 am
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The NCGOP has filed official complaints of ethics violations against two sitting members of the Charlotte City Council, as well as filing multiple Freedom of Information Act public record requests from emails from the two council members containing the names of two non-office holders.

Council members Dimple Ajmera and James “Smuggie” Mitchell are each accused of, “Using their official position for personal gain,” in the ethics complaint.

Profile Pic
James Mitchell
Dimple Ajmera
Dimple Ajmera

As a result of the official complaint filed, Charlotte City Attorney Patrick Baker is anticipated to hire independent investigators to look into these allegations. The investigators have no legal authority, such as issuing subpoenas. 

Ajmera, a Democrat, is said by the NCGOP to have used her elected position in rezoning cases to solicit campaign contributions from businesses that either have pending votes from the council or just had their zoning request approved by council.

The NCGOP cites at least nine times when Ajmera received donations from these businesses either before or shortly after the council vote.

The timing of contributions made to her, many off campaign fundraising typical cycles, directly correlates to her votes on rezoning petitions, and demonstrates a clear need for the City to engage an independent investigator, validate this claim is not frivolous, and take the appropriate legal action to restore confidence in what is seemingly a corrupt system,” the NCGOP said in a press release.

According to the NCGOP, the following are instances where Ajmera took those campaign contributions and when they occurred:

  1. Kevin Higgins gave $4500 in 2017 and $1500 in 2019. According to Petition 2017-044 has/had an interest in 2017-167 (Ervin Building). Petition 2017-167 was filed the week of his 2017 donation (10/13).
  2. ERSKINE BOWLES gave $500 on 09/27/2019, less than two weeks after a rezoning he supported (2018-142) was approved.
  3. Peter Lash, Managing Partner of Beacon Partners, gave $1,000 on 6/24 between the 6/19 public hearing date and the July 17 decision date for 2017-039 by Beacon Partners.
  4. Ajmera received a triple max ($16,200) from the Fallon Family (JOSEPH FALLON, $5400, 02/09/2020), (MICHAEL FALLON, $5400, 02/08/2020), (SUSAN FALLON, $5400, 02/12/2020). The Fallon Company partners with Horizon Development (Inlivian); they also own property Uptown. https://www.falloncompany.com/project-portfolio/charlotte/
  5. BOBBY DRAKEFORD gave $354.09 on 05/22/2019, two days after 2017-186 was approved. https://charlottenc.gov/planning/Rezoning/RezoningPetitions/2017Petitions/Pages/2017-186.aspx
  6. Christian Ogunrinde gave $100 on 6/28, after the 6/19 public hearing on 2017-067 but prior to its 9/18 approval.
  7. Tim Melton gave $500 on 9/22 after his rezoning in Ajmera's district was approved on 6/19.
  8. JONATHAN VISCONTI of GVEST CAPITAL gave $500 on 12/30/2019 between the 12/16 public hearing date for 2019-124 and the 1/21 approval.
  9. BART HOPPER gave $500 and CLAY MCCULLOUGH of Hopper Communities gave $100 on 09/26/2019, 10 days after the approval of 2019-053 and before the approval of 2019-076 in October and 2018-117 in November. All three petitions led by Hopper.

With Mitchell, also a Democrat, the accusations are a little murkier. It involves a taxpayer-funded trip in November of 2018, to Detroit to see new sports complexes and facilities of area professional sports teams with executives of the Carolina Panthers.

Upon securing a trip to Detroit to meet with Panthers executives, which cost $1,421.26 and paid for by taxpayers, Mitchell immediately forwarded the confirmation of the trip to a construction company he has ties with as a former employee and which happens to build sports complexes. Mitchell currently works with another construction company that has business partnerships with the former employer he had quickly emailed. 

“This trip, its direct financial connection to businesses that would financially gain from this sports facility construction project that employ Councilman Mitchell, and the timing directly prior to Council voting on and approving a $100M+ public subsidy demonstrates a clear need for the City to engage an independent investigator, validate this claim is not frivolous, and take the appropriate legal action to restore confidence in what is seemingly a corrupt system,” the NCGOP said in a statement.

The NCGOP also has filed a public records request that asks for all emails, text messages, calendar entries or documents that contain any of the several keyword combinations over a five month stretch.

One of the keywords listed is the name of Dan McCorkle, a Democratic political advisor in Mecklenburg County. He works with Ajmera.

The NCGOP also asked for anything containing the following keywords: “Tariq, Bokhari, attack, conflict of interest, CMPD defense, Workforce Recovery OR Small Business Assistance.”

Moreover, the NCGOP wants all public records that include the keywords, “RevTechLabs, QC Fintech, Queen City Fintech,” which are associated with councilmember Tariq Bokhari, who is a Republican.

“It is truly sad to see elected officials abuse their positions of power for private gain,” NCGOP Press Secretary Tim Wigginton said. “By taking these actions today, the North Carolina Republican Party seeks to hold these public officials accountable for their actions.”

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