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ROCKY MOUNT — A public-private downtown hotel project is on hold while its contractor faces a federal indictment.
David Hunt, 54, of Tennessee, stands accused by the FBI of bid-rigging with a state official in Mississippi.
Rocky Mount officials hand-picked Hunt last year to build a hotel, parking garage, retail outlets and housing surrounding the Rocky Mount Event Center.
City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney told local news media that although Hunt’s charges aren’t connected, she’s placing a hold on the city’s project.
Since its inception last year, the hotel project has had a rocky go of it.
The Rocky Mount City Council recently asked the state’s Local Government Commission to evaluate revised plans for the project, which had been on hold in the wake of a scathing report on the city’s finances issued in mid-May by State Auditor Beth Wood.
Also, the Nash County Travel and Tourism Board met recently to issue a letter of concern to the LGC about the project.
Hunt is accused of conspiracy and wire fraud in a scheme with a state official who allegedly accepted kickbacks to split contracts, create false quotes and alter purchase orders to avoid the required competitive bid process.
If convicted, Hunt faces 20 years in prison.
Hunt’s attorney issued a statement that Hunt hasn’t violated the law and he will be cleared of all charges.
In announcing Hunt’s charges, Mike Hurst, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, said those who defraud the public’s trust will find themselves answering for their wrongs in a court of law.
“Public corruption erodes faith in our democracy and decays the very soul of our form of government,” Hurst said. “Bringing to justice corrupt public officials has always been and remains a high priority of this office, and a personal mission of mine, and we will continue to pursue corruption wherever it may lead.”