CHARLOTTE — More than a week after the Charlotte City Council decided that a new technology job-placement program co-founded by Republican councilman Tariq Bokhari would be overhauled because of concerns about a potential conflict of interest, the North Carolina GOP has filed ethics complaints and a public records request, alleging corruption on the City Council.
The NCGOP singled out councilmembers James Mitchell and Dimple Ajmera.
The public records request includes all emails, text messages, calendar entries or documents that contain the word combinations Tariq, Bokhari, attack, conflict of interest, CMPD defense, Workforce Recovery or Small Business Assistance, RevTechLabs, QC Fintech and Queen City Fintech between March 1 and August 4.
In a release, the NCGOP said:
“Over the last 3 weeks, several members of the Charlotte City Council and community have launched personal attacks of ethics violations on Republican City Councilman Tariq Bokhari, who has been a lone outspoken voice defending the police and fighting to keep the RNC’s economic impact for Charlotte’s small businesses and hospitality workers. These attacks have been political in nature ... and have put the livelihood of 90 people in need of workforce support and 10k+ small business in need of recovery at risk.
“While it has been deemed above board and compliant with all policies by the City Attorney, City Manager and every other relevant City Official, these few members of the Council and community continue their politically motivated attacks.
“The NCGOP has decided to shine a light on the real ethics violations that have been occurring in Charlotte for years by taking these three actions earlier today.”
The ethics complaints claim both Mitchell and Ajmera used their official positions for personal gain.
“It is truly sad to see elected officials abuse their positions of power for private gain,” NCGOP Press Secretary Tim Wigginton said Thursday. “By taking these actions today, the North Carolina Republican Party seeks to hold these public officials accountable for their actions.”
Bokhari came under scrutiny last month when city administrators unveiled a 90-job training and placement initiative to be run by Carolina Fintech Hub and the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council. Bokhari is co-founder and executive director of Carolina Fintech Hub.
The $6.5 million program was to be funded with $5 million from private-sector sources and $1.5 million from city government. Because the city’s portion would come from a $154.5 million federal grant as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, the money must be spent on COVID-19-related expenses and recovery.
Under the proposal that came to the city’s small-business task force — a temporary committee formed in response to the pandemic — the city money would have been used to pay the 90 trainees a stipend for five months until they begin their full-time jobs in January. Each participant would have received $2,900 a month while going through the training portion before transitioning to private jobs — and higher pay.
The money would have gone directly to the trainees, not through Carolina Fintech Hub.
Council members questioned the conclusions reached by Patrick Baker, the city attorney, and pointed fingers at administrators as well as each other over how the program was introduced and whether the full council should have first considered Bokhari’s possible conflict.
Bokhari warned council members that the private sector was closely watching their back-and-forth arguments over the tech placement program and might decide not to collaborate with local government in the future because of the controversy and messy feuding.
“Ninety lives that would have been changed forever won’t get that chance,” Bokhari said. “I know voting to kill this program will, to some of you, feel like fair retribution for some of the positions I’ve taken over the last few months.”
Bokhari recused himself from the vote on whether to revamp the program and exclude Carolina Fintech Hub. Council approved the motion in a 9-1 vote. Braxton Winston opposed the measure.
In response to the complaint, Mitchell told Channel 9′s Joe Bruno that the visit to Detroit was an officially sanctioned economic development trip on behalf of Charlotte City Council to look at Little Caesars Arena and Ford Field.
Dimple said in response to the complaint, “this is purely a racist, sexist and political attack.”
Channel 9 is reaching out to Councilman Mitchell and Councilwoman Ajmera for comment.
(The Charlotte Business Journal contributed to this article.)
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