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US won’t pull Blue Line funding after strip club allegations

By Rick Rothacker and Franco Ordoñez
rrothacker@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/03/20/02/TvMXE.Em.138.jpeg|316
    David T. Foster III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Construction continues on the Blue Line Extension project along North Tryon Street on Tuesday, June 3, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/04/19/44/1mxNBd.Em.138.jpeg|193
    David T. Foster III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Construction continues on the Blue Line Extension project along North Tryon Street on Tuesday, June 3, 2014.

The federal government isn’t pulling funding for the light-rail extension over allegations that former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon took a $2,000 bribe to help a strip club owner whose establishment was in the construction path.

“We are aware of the allegations based on news coverage of the case, but decisions to fund major transit projects are part of a multiyear, multistep process,” Ryan Daniels, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation said. “Funding decisions are based solely on the merits of the project, which in this case, were determined well before these allegations arose.”

As with all projects, the DOT will continue to provide oversight of the federal money in the Lynx Blue Line project, Daniels said.

Former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who became U.S. transportation secretary last year, declined to be interviewed. Staff referred to a statement he made in March in which he said he felt “deep disappointment” over Cannon’s arrest.

The federal government signed a contract in October 2012 to fund much of the Blue Line extension.

The Full Funding Grant Agreement committed the Federal Transit Administration to pay for roughly half of the $1.1 billion construction cost. The state and the city of Charlotte will split the other half.

The 9.3-mile line is projected to open in 2017.

In new allegations outlined in a federal charging document filed Monday, prosecutors said Cannon took bribes from an adult entertainment club owner, identified as “Businessman #1.”

On Monday, the Observer identified the businessman as David “Slim” Baucom, owner of a chain of local strip clubs, including Twin Peeks on North Tryon Street near W.T. Harris Boulevard. The club was demolished to make way for the Blue Line last year but received a zoning approval that allowed it to be rebuilt on the remainder of the lot.

According to the charging document, the city needed to buy the businessman’s club to accommodate the light-rail extension. He sought Cannon’s help and allegedly paid Cannon $2,000 cash in January 2013. Baucom, who has not returned calls seeking comment, is not named in the charging document and has not been charged.

On Tuesday, Cannon pleaded guilty to one federal charge of honest services wire fraud in the case, which also included allegations that Cannon took money from undercover agents in exchange for his help with real estate projects. Staff writer Steve Harrison contributed

Rothacker: 704-358-5170; Twitter: @rickrothacker
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