Ethics Complaint, Lawsuit Continue Over Panthers Stadium Deal

Sep 24, 2013

Mike Cozza, Wayne Powers, Ken Koontz and Bruce Bowers (not pictured) are suing the city of Charlotte for allegedly violating North Carolina law in holding secret meetings with the Carolina Panthers.
Credit Julie Rose

The Charlotte City Council heard – but did not respond to – pointed accusations Monday night that they violated their own ethics policy in negotiating behind closed doors with the Carolina Panthers to spend tax dollars on Bank of America Stadium renovations.

"Can anyone on that dais claim, honestly and with a straight face, that the spirit of the North Carolina Open Meetings Law intended to allow secret deliberations and votes about raising taxes?" demanded Wayne Powers, one of four former journalists and broadcasters who have also filed a lawsuit alleging city negotiations with the Panthers violated North Carolina Open Meetings law.

Ken Koontz is another: "This whole thing is about public trust and you guys either don't seem to get it, or you just don't care."            

City Attorney Bob Hagemann advised the city council Monday night not to respond to the ethics charges and, instead, allow the dispute to play out in court. He argues the Panthers meetings were legal because local governments are permitted to discuss economic incentive deals in secret.

Initially, the city council planned to raise taxes for the stadium project, but state lawmakers rejected the notion. Instead, the council promised $87.5 million in existing tax revenues over the next ten years for renovations and maintenance.

On Monday night, the city council approved its first $28 million installment toward that commitment.