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SBI completes investigation of James "Smuggie" Mitchell's business claims

The results of the investigation have been turned over to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office which will now review the files.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An investigation into whether a Charlotte City Councilmember's business ventures violate North Carolina laws has been completed by a state agency.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) told WCNC Charlotte on Wednesday that the agency's investigation on James "Smuggie" Mitchell was complete.

The details of the investigation have not been shared but officials say the agency's findings have been turned over to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office, which asked the SBI to look into the matter.

Mitchell was elected to the Charlotte City Council in a July election and questions were raised over what percentage of a stake he owned in a company that does business with the city of Charlotte.

Mitchell served on Charlotte City Council for 20 years. His tenure came to a halt when he resigned in January 2021 following concerns over his new role as president of RJ Leeper Construction.

"I have determined, this is the best -- in the interest of me, the company and the city, that I step aside from my position today," Mitchell said at the council meeting that day.

RJ Leeper works with the city on many major projects including the Charlotte Airport expansion, Charlotte Convention Center renovations, and work on CMS schools.

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

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.

In May 2022, during his campaign for the July municipal election, Mitchell told WCNC Charlotte's Ben Thompson, “I’ll make sure I comply with the state law and sell shares of my stock, 25%, so I can get below the 10% threshold that’s required by the state of North Carolina.”

Mitchell won the election and now holds one of the four at-large council seats. However, there is confusion over whether he still has a stake in the construction company and if he's violating state law.

RJ Leeper COO Lorie Spratley told WCNC Charlotte that Mitchell lost his stake in the company in March 2022.

“Mr. Mitchell’s 25% interest was foreclosed upon under North Carolina law after he defaulted on his obligation to repay a $375,000 loan plus accrued interest,” Spratley wrote in a statement.

Merriweather could choose to file charges against Mitchell if the agency's findings warrant him to do so. His office is in the process of reviewing the files. 

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