The Cannon Corruption scandal has a city council member defending his name, and clarifying his actions.
In a letter to be published in Wednesday's Charlotte Observer, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes says when the Blue Line extension got started, a number of business owners contacted him because they were concerned about the project's impact.
According to federal prosecutors, Patrick Cannon accepted $2,000 in cash from the owner of an adult entertainment club, and in return Cannon would influence city officials to find a way to keep the club open during construction of the Blue Line light rail extension.
WBTV asked the Charlotte Area Transit System for any information regarding a strip club in the path of the light rail extension.
CATS officials said the only adult club "with property impacts due to construction" of the Blue Line Extension was Twin Peeks, which was located on North Tryon Street. The parcel of land where the club was located is now vacant.
According to the federal Bill of Information, Cannon accepted money from a business owner to contact city and county officials and urge them to give zoning approvals to rebuild the club on the same property, arranged meetings with CATS officials, and reached out to the councilman of the district where the club was located.
That council member is Michael Barnes.
Barnes, in his letter, says "I never pressured or persuaded our staff to arrive at any particular conclusion or to do anything special for Twin Peeks or any other business. I asked our staff to contact the businesses, develop an understanding of the scope of the problems and determine whether there was anything we could do to help."
Federal prosecutors have not accused any other council member or city official in the Cannon corruption case.
Monday afternoon WBTV obtained from CATS the emails and correspondence regarding Twin Peeks and the eminent domain process.
In 2012, the city sent out notification that the building would have to come down to make way for the Blue Line.
In an email, a representative of the club's owner - David Baucom - told the city they wanted a meeting to discuss why their property was to be acquired. Emails show Baucom got his meeting, where he quote asked "what could be done for him" and "It was also talked about whether Mr Baucom had any political ties that he could possibly talk with any of those people about a variance as well."
The club's owners looked around for a new location but decided to rebuild on the property - outside of the area needed for the light rail.
WBTV didn't see Patrick Cannon's name in any of the pages reviewed. City officials have said federal prosecutors barred them from releasing any information, emails, or correspondence involving Cannon.
CATS and Twin Peeks eventually came to an agreement that said Twin Peeks could stay open between February 2013 and June 3.
In a letter dated February 27th, David Baucom wrote "This letter is to request an extension on the notice to vacate date of May 9th, 2013... until June 17th, 2013."
The letter continued "The month of May and early June are very busy and major revenue producing dates for us, based on sports related activity at the Speedway and surrounding area. I support the LYNX Blue Line Extension, and realize the long term benefit to the surrounding area, and understand the inconveniences associated with change. This extension request would help us offset the expenses and lost revenue associated with the relocation of our 20 plus year business."
Baucom wrote "I commit to vacating the building by 8am Monday June 17th, and am willing to pay an agreed upon penalty if not."
In a separate April 2013 letter, Walter David Baucom Jr. wrote "I request that the June 3 date be extended; allowing us to operate the business up until construction/demolition is actually scheduled to begin. We can vacate with a 48 hour notice. This cooperation will avoid us having to close the business which will put 50 plus people out of work with a number being single parents."
But in a May email, a Twin Peeks representative reportedly said "they were planning on shutting down on 5/31 and moving out in time for their required 6/3 vacate date." However, city officials apparently became alarmed because the representative also said "David Baucom was working with his sources at City Government to get additional time past 6/3rd."
In a May 2013 email chain that included Council Member Michael Barnes, Debra Campbell - the Director of the City's Planning Department, and other city staff - Council Member Barnes asked the Planning Department to explain a zoning issue to Twin Peeks' owners to see what help the owner - David Baucom - could get.
Campbell responded to Barnes that CATS "won't be able to help Mr. Baucom", that they had already given him a "couple of extensions." Campbell told Barnes "we are waiting for your response."
Barnes responded "sounds like we need to chat with Mr. Baucom. I know there'll be pain during the BLE, but we don't want to do damage to folks' business, if we can avoid it."
In another email, Barnes said he spoke with Mr Baucom... "It seems unlikely that we'll be able to adjust the demo schedule."
Baucom wanted to build a new building on the same lot but Barnes said the owner was having an issue with the building permit.
Barnes wrote in the email "He's apparently having a challenging time with the county & city relative to the permits. Can you and I talk today about a way to try to help?"
In Wednesday's letter clarifying "what I did and did not do," Barnes writes "My conduct was consistent with what I believe almost all elected officials strive to do for their constituents. Whether it has been a concern about a neighbor's tall grass, a broken street light, a pothole or in this case, the light rail's impact on businesses, since 2005 I have always made an effort to lawfully assist people when I can."
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