WILLIAMSON – The Williamson City Council has voted to begin an investigation into Mayor Charlie Hatfield over his ties to the old Williamson High School property.
According to tax documents, the property is currently owned by HKL, LLC, which is named as an acronym for its three co-operators: Hatfield, Samuel Kapourales, and Joe and Cheryl Lycan. HKL, LLC, was formed Oct. 24, 2018, eight days after the property was auctioned off to the Lycans by the Mingo County Commission.
During a heated meeting of the city council on Sept. 26, councilman Randy Price argued that the property legally belongs to the city due to a 1916 lease agreement with the Mingo County Board of Education. He asserted that Hatfield took ownership of the property as part of HKL, LLC, and that the owners knew about the lease and neglected to obtain a clear title before purchasing.
Hatfield said it all comes down to a “title issue” and told Price that he doesn’t know where those lines are drawn. He concluded that the matter will likely “end up in the courtrooms anyway.”
At that meeting, Price attempted to make a motion to begin an investigation numerous times, but was shot down by Hatfield, who advised him that it needs to be put on the agenda for the next meeting before he can put it up for vote. That’s exactly what happened for the Oct. 10 agenda, where the item appeared as a “motion to investigate how Mayor Charles Hatfield came to claim ownership of property that may belong to the City of Williamson.”
“How does a council do an investigation? That’s the only question I have,” said Hatfield when the item came up.
“Well, we’ll clarify that right here,” Price responded. He then made a motion to request the Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office investigate the matter.
The motion was seconded by councilman Joe Venturino and councilwoman Sherri Hairston Brown. It passed 3-1, with councilman Ralphie Hall casting the one vote opposing the motion and Hatfield abstaining.
The move came six days after Kentucky-based Campbellsville University announced via press release that it was looking into using the property as part of an expansion into West Virginia to offer degree programs. Without specifically mentioning the property, Hatfield briefly discussed the school’s plans during his remarks at the Oct. 10 meeting, and took a slight swipe at Price while doing so.
“They’ve been approved to start with some of their programs very soon, I think, in the spring term we would call it – January term,” Hatfield said. “I’m very excited about that and welcome all the inquiry that Mr. Price brought up. That’s what I’ve been waiting for.”
In an interview after the meeting, Price clarified that the council has not determined any actual crime committed.
“That’s why we, as city council, are requesting an investigation to get the facts,” Price said. “We want the facts before moving to the next level. I was here at the last meeting, and I shared documents that I have — they’re legal documents, they’re a matter of public record, the lease agreement and things of that nature – and I just feel like that property belongs to the City of Williamson, and that’s what we want to know. I’m not looking at any criminal activity at this point, but you know, we want to see where this thing goes, and I think the big losers in it all is the City of Williamson.”
Dylan Vidovich is a news reporter for HD Media. Contact him by phone at 304-896-5196.