WILLIAMSON — The Williamson City Council unanimously voted Thursday to allow the city’s legal council to look into and clarify lingering questions about the Williamson Parks and Recreation board.
In a move to mitigate the flared tempers seen at the previous council meeting in relation to the topic, Mayor Charlie Hatfield made the motion to have Attorney Nathan Brown look at matters that need clarification — including terms of members of the parks board and financial responsibility for the entity.
Hatfield said using Brown as a third party could help alleviate some of the tensions felt between parties who have butted heads in the past over certain topics. Brown, who said he had not been approached with the idea before the meeting, encouraged the mayor, council members and park board members to email him with their personal concerns so that he could look into them and facilitate conversation.
Marvi Rosen, vice president of the parks board, asked Hatfield if the council and board could host a joint public meeting. Hatfield said this could be a part of the process once Brown begins his research process.
A discussion of the Williamson Parks and Recreation board at a meeting earlier this month prompted the topic’s return to Thursday’s agenda.
On the agenda for the previous meeting, the item on the floor for discussion was “Discussion of Williamson Parks and Recreation and Revocation of Article 149.” Photos of the agenda were circulated on social media in the days prior to the meeting, sparking a packed room.
Hatfield stated at that meeting that the parks board sent a letter to the council and himself dated Jan. 9 sharing concerns related to financial and other matters.
Hatfield shared from a prepared list of concerns he had about the board, claiming he had received “multiple” complaints from constituents relating to facilities, the parks and recreation director and financial matters.
“This discussion of the park board has nothing to do — if you want to make a comment, I’ll save your breath — this discussion isn’t about eliminating the facilities that this city, through tax payer’s money, through county board of education money, through franchise money, is not to take away one swing set, one monkey bar, one piece of wood out of the field house,” Hatfield said.
The main issue addressed in the previous meeting, however, is a lien from the Internal Revenue Service relating to a failure to fund payroll tax payments dating back to 2016. In a printed statement provided to attendees and the media by Williamson Parks and Recreation Board President Steven Wilson, the lien is acknowledged.
“The tax lien that’s in question was filed by the IRS, deals with withholding,” Hatfield said. “If you all are in business, then you know W-2s. It goes back to 2016.”
Hatfield said the Parks and Recreation Board claimed the city responsible for the issues — in the prepared statement, Wilson claimed the board did not take control of its own finances until 2021. However, Hatfield contends the board is the one identified with the tax identification number on the lien from the IRS and therefore is the one responsible.
“I have heard that our city clerk should have taken care of this,” Hatfield said. “Well, there’s three city clerks that have lived through this since 2016…You can’t as an entity pick and choose what you want to do. If you are the park board, if it happened before you, you inherit it. You have to deal with it.”
Wilson said in the prepared statement that the organization was visited by the IRS in September 2022. During that visit, Wilson claimed that the representative from the IRS asked to speak with Director Jarrod Dean.
Dean was then given a packet of information, which he signed for. then reported the visit to Wilson.
According to Wilson, the documents indicated the “organization had failed to fund payroll tax payments from random periods between third quarter 2016 to second quarter 2020.” According to the statement from Wilson, “in addition to these payroll tax liabilities, significant interest and penalties had accumulated and were disclosed in these documents.”
According to Wilson, the organization hired an independent certified public accountant to review the documents received and provide options. He said the board was notified before a meeting planned for Jan. 20 that the IRS had taken out a lien against the board’s bank accounts.
The Williamson Daily News has since obtained a copy of the lien document from both the mayor’s office and the parks board through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
According to the lien document, the total unpaid balance as of the document dated Jan. 4, 2023 was $18,642.88. The tax periods listed as delinquent include one in 2016, one in 2018, four in 2019, four in 2020 and two in 2021. The most recent delinquent period is for the tax period that ended Sept. 30, 2021.
In addition to the lien from the IRS, the Williamson Board of Parks and Recreation also voluntarily provided a lien document from the West Virginia State Tax Department in response to the Freedom of Information Act request.
Delinquent periods to the state date back to 2019 according to the document, totaling $5,370.05. According to the document, three periods from the nine total have not yet been filed and are pending estimate, so the approximate $5,000 only covers six of those tax periods. The delinquent periods include two in 2019, four in 2020 and three in 2021.
The Williamson Board of Parks and Recreation also voluntarily provided documentation of payments made by the entity to both the state and federal tax departments at the end of each period that are up-to-date from late 2021 forward.
Additionally, Hatfield and Councilman Stuart Hight spent time discussing an attempted repossession of a tractor owned by the parks board last year, and expanded on the topic when questioned by Mike Casey. Hatfield claimed the board was behind by five payments and that he had documented proof of being told this by the company. Dean and Wilson, however, contended it was only two payments and that the issue was easily resolved the day the company representative came to Williamson.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request for the documentation both parties claimed to have during the meeting, the parks board provided record of a check dated Oct. 6, 2022 in the amount of $923.53 to cover two delinquent payments on the tractor for the months of June and August.
In response to the same Freedom of Information Act request sent Feb. 13, Hatfield wrote a letter dated Feb. 15 which echoed the same timeline of events presented by him in the council meeting earlier this month. In the letter to the Williamson Daily News, Hatfield said he was contacted by the company seeking assistance in contacting the board to collect payments. Hatfield also said in the letter “they told me and confirmed that they typically do not seek recovery unless its 120 days overdue in payments.”