A grab bag at the grocery?

Did city of Orlando mayoral aide Walter Hawkins use his influence in the mostly black Washington Shores community to depress sales at a city-subsidized grocery, so that a nonprofit group affiliated with Hawkins could buy the store more cheaply? That's the allegation that makes Hawkins the latest defendant in a lawsuit linked to the struggling Premier Foods market, and reported in the March 10 Orlando Business Journal.

The corporate parent for Premier Foods, which was lured to Washington Shores with the promise of about $100,000 in economic incentives, filed suit against the city as their business deal soured.

In exchange for its help, the city had called for Premier Foods to sell a 5 percent stake in the store to a neighborhood group. With that condition apparently unmet, the city moved to recover its waived fees. Residents meanwhile called a boycott of the store, and Premier Foods began looking for a buyer.

The amended complaint tries to link Hawkins to the continuing boycott, which presumably would decrease the sale price for potential buyers, including a community group in which Hawkins is an officer, according to OBJ. Hawkins is also alleged to have scared off a prospective Asian buyer. He denies all allegations.

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