Local News

Has Hunt Been Too Influential in Some Areas?

Posted January 21, 1998

— Another example of Governor Jim Hunt's influence-winning has caught the attention of WRAL-TV5 Investigative ReporterStuart Watson. This time, it involves a Department of Transportation project for the governor's home town. The Charlotte Observerreports transportation engineers made Wilson's airport a priority after receiving a letter from Governor Jim Hunt.

The paper reported last month that Hunt's influence made a bridge in Wilson County a priority. Now comes news that the DOT responded to a Hunt request for a $400,000 paving job on the runway at Wilson's airport -- the airport the Governor frequently flies into.

The DOT wasn't planning to pave the Wilson runway for years. That task wasn't even in the department's 5-year work plan, but when the governor pushed the project, DOT paved the strip last fall. The Governor says the runway will help bring jobs.

The Rocky Mount airstrip is just five miles away from the Wilson airport, and Chris Fitzsimon of the Common Sense Foundation believes the Governor is playing favorites.

Last week the Governor admitted his endorsement of a bridge in Wilson County may have seemed like a political shove.

Thursday, the Governor said the airport paving job is different.

But Fitzsimon says not all recommendations are created equal.

Last week the Governor replaced the secretary of transportation after reports of conflicts of interest among DOT board members.

Critics of the department say the problems run deeper than one person or one road, and that they will continue as long as big political fundraisers serve on the board and in top positions at DOT.

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