Political expert: Government corruption accusations rare

by: Jenna Deery Updated:

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CHARLOTTE - Several of Patrick Cannon's colleagues have come forward expressing shock about what the FBI is accusing him of doing, but what may surprise many people with a natural suspicion of politicians is accusations of wrongdoing are rare.

The details of a federal investigation outlined in a 48-page document may have shattered the public's trust in Charlotte's governmental leaders.

Patrick Cannon resigned as mayor of Charlotte just 114 days after taking office after he was arrested Wednesday.
 
He's accused of taking at least $48,000 in cash on five different occasions since 2013 in exchange for using his political power to clear the way for development projects set up by undercover agents.
 
Channel 9's political expert Michael Bitzer said the allegations are unprecedented for the Queen City, but believe it or not, it's rare in government for corruption to happen.

"There certainly can be the perception that all elected officials are on the take," Bitzer told Channel 9 Saturday. "It's actually not as high as one would expect if you consider it with how many local government officials there are."

The U.S. Department of Justice proves it through numbers. Its data shows over the past 20 years, just 269 local officials have faced federal public corruption charges. Two hundred and thirty of them were convicted.

Considering there are 90,106 state and local governments nationwide, that's a fraction of government officials accused of wrongdoing.

Despite what the numbers show, Bitzer believes it only takes one to damage an entire pool of politicians, which could be the case in Charlotte.

"Beyond the numbers, it is the perception-often involving bribery, scandal, and the fall of these elected officials-that raises the public awareness beyond the actual numbers. And when the corruption occurs in a city that hasn't truly experienced the level of public dishonesty as other major U.S. cities has experienced, it strikes deep into the political and civic system," Bitzer added in a commentary article.

Bitzer said it will now be up to City Council to appoint someone who has demonstrated integrity to rebuild that public trust. He believes most elected officials are serving for the public's good.