Longtime Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell resigning

Updated: Jan. 11, 2021 at 7:06 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - James “Smuggie” Mitchell announced he is resigning as a council member effective at 5 p.m. Monday.

Mitchell, a democrat, was serving his third term as an at-large council member. He previously served from 1999 to 2013 as the District 2 council member.

Charlotte City Council member to resign

HAPPENING NOW: Longtime Charlotte City Council member James “Smuggie” Mitchell announces resignation. https://bit.ly/3ifPAu5

Posted by WBTV News on Monday, January 11, 2021

City council is now responsible for appointing a new councilmember but it’s unclear what the timeline is for that.

Mayor Vi Lyles says the work Mitchell has done to help bring good paying jobs to Charlotte has been helpful to the entire city.

Mitchell’s resignation is due to his new role as President at RJ Leeper Construction firm. Last week Charlotte City Attorney Patrick Baker told WBTV he would be reviewing Mitchell’s new role with Leeper to make a determination on possible conflict.

RJ Leeper has numerous contracts with the City of Charlotte. Even if Mitchell had recused himself from votes on future contracts, it’s not clear if he could have avoided potential conflicts.

In 2011, Mitchell served as the president of the National League of Cities, only the second elected official from North Carolina to serve as the president in the organization’s 92 years, the city of Charlotte reports.

Mitchell has also played a large role in helping bring the CIAA to Charlotte. He also was a strong advocate for elevating minority owned businesses and was a crucial vote in inviting the RNC to Charlotte in 2020.

WBTV had been investigating potential of conflicts of interest faced by Mitchell for two years.

WBTV’s investigation found that Mitchell went to Detroit in November 2018 on a taxpayer-funded trip that cost $1,421.26, records show.

On his reimbursement form, Mitchell listed the purpose of the trip as “return for site of Detroit Sports Facility.” The Detroit Lions hosted the Carolina Panthers that weekend in a regular season game.

Emails obtained through a records request show that Mitchell was communicating with Carolina Panthers President Tom Glick about visiting Detroit to tour some of its sports facilities.

Mitchell forwarded the email to high level employees at the company Barton Malow.

A press release from Barton Mallow shows Mitchell was hired at the construction firm in 2014. At the time, of the trip he worked for construction firm JE Dunn.

In August, the NCGOP filed an ethics complaint against Mitchell based on WBTV’s investigations.

The complaint filed by the NCGOP states “Mitchell’s current employer (JE Dunn) has several references to strong business partnerships with Barton Mallow, including joint ventures in jobsite accident technology and data sharing agreements.”

In January 2020, WBTV discovered Mitchell had not submitted required ethics documents, called a statement of economic interest. He only filed his most recent form after WBTV reported that he faced no sanctions for failing to file the documents.

Charlotte city council is now considering strengthening the city’s statement of economic interest forms so that councilmembers have to reveal more financial ties in the publicly released forms.

Charlotte city council now has to go through the process of appointing a new person to take Mitchell’s seat. State law mandates that they pick a democrat to fill the position. Council will finalize the process for applicants next Tuesday.

A Charlotte native, Mitchell is a graduate of West Charlotte High School. He received his B.B.A in information systems from North Carolina Central University.

Councilmember Mitchell was involved in the following Charlotte community leadership organizations prior to serving on the City Council:

  • Focus on Leadership, president
  • Save-the-Seed mentoring organization, president
  • Black Data Processing Association, president
  • Young Democrats of Mecklenburg County, president
  • Black Political Caucus, vice president

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