Group files ethics complaint against Charlotte City Council

by: Jim Bradley Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - For months the city of Charlotte has been defending itself over the legality of closed door meetings to discuss financial help for the Carolina Panthers stadium.

Now the city is about to discuss a related allegation - that those same closed door meetings violated the city's own code of ethics.

"A secret deliberation, a secret vote on a secret plan to raise taxes" is how Mike Cozza describes the meetings.

He and a group of others have filed an ethics complaint against City Council members.

The issue is on tonight's City Council agenda. While the city's code of ethics allows the city to direct the city attorney to investigate an apparent violation such an investigation is not required.

City Councilman James Mitchell doesn't think an investigation is necessary.

"I respect that they think there is an argument.

There is no merit to the argument so I think we need to continue to move forward," Mitchell said.

But critics say the City Council shouldn't be able to decide if an ethics charge against it is valid.

"That would be a clear and obvious conflict of interest," said Mike Cozza.

Cozza says he wants the city to appoint an independent third party to look into whether the council violated its own code of ethics.

City Attorney Bob Hagemann says he won't recommend an investigation.

Hagemann says he'll recommend that council members allow the lawsuit filed against the city to run its course before taking any action on the ethics complaint.