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Mayor, city council members received campaign contributions from company accused of overcharging for Blue Line extension

Campaign finance records show HNTB Holdings' political action committee has given to at least one mayoral candidate's campaign every election dating back to 2011.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Campaign finance records show the company accused of overcharging Charlotte for a light rail project donated money in support of half the current City Council, in addition to other former elected leaders in recent years.

HNTB, the company hired to manage construction of the Blue Line Extension, donated $21,000 to council and mayoral campaigns through its political action committee since 2011, according to state election records.

As NBC Charlotte Defenders uncovered Monday, a new city audit questioned millions of dollars in labor and overhead payments to HNTB and encouraged Charlotte to try and recoup some of those unnecessary and excess payments.

Mayor Vi Lyles said the city will fix the problem going forward and will set its sights on recovering as much money as possible.

Campaign finance records show HNTB's political action committee gave Friends for Vi Lyles $2,000 in 2017 for her mayoral campaign and $250 in 2015 to Vi Alexander Lyles for City Council. HNTB also gave Jennifer Roberts for Mayor and Friends of Jennifer Roberts a combined $7,000 for mayoral campaigns in 2015 and 2017, according to state records.

They're not alone. Campaign finance documents show HNTB Holdings' political action committee has given to at least one mayoral candidate's campaign every election dating back to 2011, including Committee to Elect Anthony Foxx and Cannon for Mayor and has also given to several city council political committees during that time.

More recently, in addition to Mayor Lyles, state election records identify campaign contributions to the Committee to Elect Dimple Ajmera ($1,500), Friends of Julie Eiselt ($1,000), James Mitchell Campaign Fund ($1,000), Re-elect Greg Phipps for City Council ($500) and Re-Elect LaWana Mayfield ($500) in 2017.

The city approved the contract in question in 2013.

"I think it would also be fair to report that council members do not have a role in selecting contractors nor do we have any role in negotiating the terms (of) these contracts," Mayor Pro Tem Eiselt said 

Members of the current council have shared relief and satisfaction knowing the city's own auditors caught the problem related to HNTB.

A company spokesperson addressed the campaign donations in a statement.

"HNTB’s political action committee, like other corporate PACs, routinely supports the political campaigns of candidates and initiatives that support the transportation industry," Christian Munson said.

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