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Wilson County Probe Linked to Contract Dispute

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From Phil Williams:

As NewsChannel 5 first revealed, a well-known developer says he's now cooperating with an FBI investigation involving building contracts and the Wilson County commission.

County officials says they've heard talk of the investigation, but don't know anything about it.

At the center of the apparent FBI investigation: accusations made by developer Steve Hewlett -- involving what he says were questionable payments to former Wilson County commissioner Rusty Thompson.

Hewlett appeared before Wilson County's public works committee last summer, first leveling the accusations against the former county commissioner.

Hewlett had been hired by the county to essentially manage construction of its schools, its justice center and other government buildings.

Hewlett claimed that an audit had discovered that a construction company on the projects secretly paid Thompson tens of thousands of dollars.

At the same time, Hewlett said, Thompson was overseeing Wilson County's construction projects.

"I have many documents showing where Mr. Thompson provided direct oversight," Hewlett told the committee at the time.

While county commissioners didn't want to hear about Thompson at the time, the head of the construction firm -- Steed Brothers -- tells me the county commissioner had worked for him for years.

And he insists that everything was completely above board.

Now, Hewlett is fighting what may be a losing battle to keep his contract with Wilson County.

And the head of the construction firm says he believes Hewlett may be, in his words, trying to burn down other people's barns to save his own.

In the end, that's what the FBI will have to sort out.

(Rusty Thompson didn't return a phone call. To read Hewlett's statement from last summer, click here.)

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