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Mecklenburg County DA asks SBI to investigate Councilman James Mitchell

State law prohibits city council members from owning more than 10% of a company that the city does business with due to conflict of interest.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather is requesting assistance from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation into a Charlotte city councilman, the district attorney's office confirmed. 

James "Smuggie" Mitchell was recently elected to city council and holds one of the four at-large seats. 

He previously served on Charlotte City Council for 20 years, but resigned in January 2021 in light of concerns over his role as president of RJ Leeper Construction. 

RELATED: Councilman James Mitchell refuses to answer whether he is breaking state law

Mitchell has since stepped down as president of RJ Leeper but told WCNC Charlotte he kept his 25% stake in the company.

As WCNC Charlotte's Julia Kauffman has previously reported, state law prohibits city council members from owning more than 10% of a company that the city does business with due to conflict of interest.

During his campaign, Mitchell spoke on WCNC Charlotte's Flashpoint, saying if elected he would sell the remaining stock to get under the threshold. 

Mitchell has since been sworn into office, but as Kauffman reported, there is confusion over whether he still has a stake in the construction company, which could potentially violate state law. 

"That is a business matter, and we’re gonna keep it as a business matter,” Mitchell said when reporters pressed him for clarity last week.

On Monday, the district attorney's office shared the following statement with WCNC Charlotte:

"Upon Councilmember James Mitchell being administered the oath of public office, I have asked for the assistance of the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation to determine whether the status of Mr. Mitchell’s ownership stake in a firm that has a contractual relationship with the City of Charlotte can be confirmed — and whether that purported business arrangement is inconsistent with N.C.G.S. s. 14-234 (a)(1). As with any criminal inquiry, a request for an investigation is not — in and of itself — a confirmation of the existence of criminal wrongdoing. In the meantime, we will not comment further while we await findings from SBI."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: James 'Smuggie' Mitchell promises no conflict of interest on council: 'People got to trust me'

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