FBI Hits Three States In One Day

By John Celock

The mayor of Charlotte, N.C. and a California state senator seeking statewide office were arrested by the FBI Wednesday on corruption charges, while a New York State lawmaker’s office was raided by the FBI.

The trio of corruption activity was highlighted by the Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s (D) arrest on charges of taking bribes over several years in exchange for official action relating to land use and parking. Cannon announced his resignation on Wednesday evening, the Charlotte Observer reported.

In California, state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was arrested on on federal gun trafficking charges that were part of a larger murder-for-hire ring. New York Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Queens) saw his Albany office and Queens home raided by federal investigators, who he said were looking at his use of the state’s reimbursement system for lawmakers.

Cannon’s arrest comes only four months after he took office as Charlotte’s 56th mayor. Cannon, who was first elected to the city council in 1993 at the age of 26, is charged with accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from undercover FBI agents, along with a trip to Las Vegas in exchange for official action. Included in the complaint against him, was a charge that he accepted a $20,000 cash bribe given to him in the mayor’s office.

Cannon’s quick path from election to indictment brings similarities to the 2009 arrest of then Hoboken, NJ Mayor Peter Cammarano III (D). Cammarano was arrested less than a month after his July 1 inauguration on charges that he accepted money from an FBI informant to help fund his mayoral campaign. Cammarano resigned a week after his arrest, marking a month in office. He later pled guilty and served time in a federal prison. Cammarano’s arrest came on the day of a series of public corruption arrests in New Jersey.

Yee is charged with accepting money from undercover FBI agents to help fund his campaign for California secretary of state this year. Yee is alleged to have promised access to gun traffickers in exchange for the cash, the San Jose Mercury News reported. Yee dropped out of the secretary of state’s race on Thursday, SFGate.com reported.

Yee, an unsuccessful 2011 San Francisco mayoral candidate, was locked in a competitive race to be California’s chief elections officer and archivist. Under California law, the top two candidates in the large field will advance from the June primary to the November general election. Among Yee’s opponents were state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) and political reform activist Derek Cressman (D).

Prior to serving in the state Senate, Yee served as president of the San Francisco school board, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and as speaker pro tempore of the state Assembly. He is presently chairman of the Senate Human Services Committee.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) called the charges against Yee “shocking” according to the Mercury News. Democratic leaders are asking Yee to resign from the Senate.

In New York, FBI agents raided Scarborough’s offices in Albany and Queens, along with his home and his hotel room in Albany, the Albany Times-Union reported. The investigation centers on whether Scarborough misused the state Legislature’s per diem system, which provides funds to lawmakers when they spend the night in Albany.

Scarborough insisted to reporters that he was “innocent” according to the Times-Union.

The raid on Scarborough’s office is the latest in a series of corruption allegations to rock Albany. Earlier this month, Assemblyman William Boyland (D-Brooklyn) was convicted on federal corruption charges and forfeited his Assembly seat. Last year, former state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Queens) admitted to wearing a wire to help the federal government as part of a case against her.