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Former mayor Harvey Gantt on Cannon arrest: I was absolutely shocked

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

One of the city's best known Democratic mayors is speaking out after Patrick Cannon was charged with corruption while mayor of Charlotte before abruptly resigning.

"I was shocked. I was absolutely shocked," said former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt. "I was floored. I've known this young man since he came into politics."

Gantt has been a heavy hitter in Charlotte politics since the mid 1970s, serving on the Charlotte City Council from 1974 to 1983. He was elected to two terms as the Charlotte's first African-American mayor, serving from 1983 to 1987.

Gantt says he thought Cannon was "clean cut" saying the two were friends.

Patrick Cannon resigned his position as Charlotte mayor on Wednesday night, nearly eight hours after he was arrested by the FBI on charges of theft and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, honest services wire fraud and extortion under color of official right.

"In light of the charges that have been brought against me, it is my judgment that the pendency of these charges will create too much of a distraction for the business of the City to go forward smoothly and without interruption," the Democrat Cannon said in a statement on Wednesday night.'

Gantt says the charges have caused him to do something he hasn't done with any other Charlotte mayor - question his integrity.

"Sometimes things happen along the way that might be tempting and challenging," Gantt told WBTV. "And clearly in this case it appears that he [pause] he was challenged beyond where he should have been."

Gantt says corruption doesn't have a color.

"Criminal activity doesn't confine itself to one racial group. But because we got into the political arena relatively late through the country, I think we have a bigger responsibility to make sure that this new tradition we taken on as a result of pulling participants in the political process - that we absolutely are good stewards in the mantle of leadership that we've been handed," Gantt said.

He says that is what people want, what they care about.

"We want public service serving in office to be an honor with having other good people come up the line," Gantt said on Thursday. "We don't want it besmirched by a legacy that talks about that this is an opportunity to line ones pockets to get ahead through all kinds of criminal activity or dealing."

Gantt says he feels said for Cannon, but it is Cannon's family he feels worse for.

"I saw them the night of his election. Saw the pride on their faces. How proud they were," he said. "All of us who get the opportunity to serve need to consider when tempted to do something negative. You need to ask how would this play with my little boy or my little girl or my wife."

Gantt says he can't remember a time when he was faced with situations that Cannon is accused of participating.

"No one ever asked for anything, but I never had anyone who came close to approaching or even suggesting that there was some way that I might use the influence of this office for any gain," he told WBTV's Steve Crump.

He says he would have never even considered it.

Gantt says Charlotte will recover from this situation.

"This is an individual who mis-stepped and already the city is stepping forward," Gantt said. "There will be a new mayor appointed in a relatively short period of time. We're gonna move forward. No one person is big enough to keep this city from moving forward and becoming an even greater place to live."

"Let's use this experience as an opportunity to build upon what we want the city to become," he continued. "And to recognize that this may be an opportunity for us to get closer as a community rather than more divisive."

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