Councilman hasn’t filed conflict of interest form since 2018

Conflict of interest in Charlotte City Council

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - City councilman James “Smuggie” Mitchell hasn’t filed required ethics forms listing his conflicts of interest since 2018. A city spokesperson said Mitchell has faced no sanctions or discipline for failing to file the mandatory paperwork.

City policy notes that council members are only investigated for ethics violations if a complaint is filed against them with the city clerk.

WBTV discovered Mitchell had not submitted the ethics documents, called a statement of economic interest, while investigating business ties he has with local construction companies. Mitchell did not respond to WBTV’s questions about why he has not filed an economic interest form in two years.

Charlotte city council revamped its ethics rules and the economic interest form in 2015 after Mayor Patrick Cannon was arrested on federal corruption charges. The new policy strengthened some aspects of the ethics rules but left most of them intact.

The statement of economic interest form required by the city asks council members to disclose numerous financial investments for members and their immediate family.

  • Real estate owned within city limits.
  • Land leased or sold to city government.
  • More than $10,000 of stock/financial interests in a company that is seeking to do business with the city.
  • Non-profits members serve on that do business with the city.

Most city council members left the pages blank indicating they have nothing to divulge. However, Mitchell’s potential conflict of interest come up on a regular basis at city council meetings.

According to city council records reviewed by WBTV, Mitchell was recused from voting on at least five different council items in 2019.

Mitchell is a business development manager at JE Dunn Construction Company. JE Dunn holds at least two contracts with the city of Charlotte.

But several of the items that Mitchell was recused from voting on don’t mention JE Dunn in the language that was presented to council, leaving questions about what his conflict of interest is in the projects.

While statement of economic interest forms for 2020 are not due until Feb. 1, city staff says Mitchell has not filed that form.

Mitchell did file statement of economic interest forms with both the city and state in 2017. The economic interest form from the State Ethics Commission requires far more disclosures than the city version.

According to ethics and disclosure policies adopted by Charlotte city council, the council could sanction a council member for failing to follow the ethics requirements. However, a complaint would need to be filed by an individual in order to launch an investigation.

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