Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Gate City ex-official headed to prison

Gate City, the Scott County town that in recent years saw its mayor jailed after an election-rigging scandal, had another prominent official sent to prison Monday.

Randall Eugene Hurt, who until 2006 was Gate City's public works director and a town employee for nearly three decades, was sentenced to 27 months in prison and ordered to pay back $139,962 of town money, U.S. Attorney John Brownlee announced.

Hurt pleaded guilty in October to money laundering. Brownlee's statement said that between July 2005, about when Hurt became director, and January 2007, Hurt used his authority to buy copper pipe with town money, crossing the state line to a supplier in Kingsport, Tenn. He then sold the pipe to recycling companies, keeping the profits for himself, the statement said.

Mark Jenkins, who became the town's mayor after a 2004 election dispute that sent previous Mayor Charles Dougherty to jail last year, said Hurt's actions surprised him.

"I had a lot of trust in him. I hate it that he's ruined his life basically," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said he did not know what prompted Hurt to start misusing town money.

The public defender who represented Hurt could not be contacted late Monday afternoon, nor could Brownlee.

Acknowledging that Gate City has taken some heavy blows, Jenkins said he hopes the town is on the right track now.