WILLIAMSON — Williamson Mayor Charlie Hatfield addressed the city council’s decision to begin an investigation into him over his ties to the old Williamson High School Property at the regular scheduled council meeting on Oct. 24.
In the council meeting two weeks prior on Oct. 10, councilman Randy Price made a motion to request the Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Duke Jewell investigate “how Mayor Charles Hatfield came to claim ownership of property that may belong to the city of Williamson.”
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.
Price argued during a heated council meeting Sept. 26 that the property legally belongs to the city due to a 1916 lease agreement with the Mingo County Board of Education, which says it is to revert to the City of Williamson “to be used for public the benefit and general welfare of the inhabitants of the city.” 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.
Price attempted to make a motion to investigate the mayor at the meeting Sept. 26 but was shot down by Hatfield, who said it needed to be put on the agenda for the next meeting before it could go up for a vote.
That is exactly what happened Oct. 10, as the motion was seconded by councilman Joe Venturino and councilwoman Sherry Hairston-Brown and passed 3-1, with councilman Ralphie Hall voting against the investigation and Hatfield abstaining.
In the most recent meeting Oct. 24, Hatfield addressed the investigation when he asked Price during the mayor’s remarks portion of the meeting if he had produced the documents relating to the investigation to the county attorney’s office.
“I would say that we have. I would say that we have produced all the documents required,” Price said.
“I asked the county attorney if anything had been done yesterday, and he said that nothing has been presented, so I just need to know because I was kind of attacked by all of this,” Hatfield responded. “I want to give everybody a chance to present what they have, and I welcome it. So you haven’t given it to Duke (Jewell) yet or his office?”
“I think Duke has all of the required documents, yes I do,” Price said again.
“Well I hate to say this in open council, but he says nothing has been shared with him or presented to him,” Hatfield said.
Hatfield went on to say that he was just following up because he needed to prepare himself for a defense and that he welcomed the inquiry, but would just like for it to be done properly.
“I did no wrong, as was suggested,” Hatfield said while directing his comments to the media in attendance. “I am in real estate and you do not buy property that you feel has a title problem, you just don’t do that. So that will all come out, and I welcome it, and I don’t want it delayed. So I would like for us to make sure that Duke gets that information and that this thing isn’t drug out for months and months.”
A call to Jewell on Monday confirmed that the prosecutor’s office had not received anything “official” from city about the investigation.
He said that he needs something official from council, such as a letter from the council members outlining the cause for the investigation or the official minutes from the meeting.
“I do plan as a courtesy to appear at the next city council meeting, to maybe get some clarification about what exactly is going on, what exactly it is they are requesting, and what if anything my office can do to assist the city,” Jewell said.
During the following council member remarks, councilman Price spoke about the recent news of Williamson Memorial Hospital filing Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and issuing Federal WARN notices to all 157 of their employees.
“I saw where Williamson Memorial issued a WARN statement and filed for bankruptcy, and I think it is a very sad day for Williamson,” Price said. “I would like to ask Nathan (Brown) and maybe Meredith (Anderson) if we need to do anything, draft anything, that we need to protect ourselves on any kind of past B&O taxes or anything of that nature.”
Hatfield, who is a part owner of the hospital under Mingo Health Partners, LLC, and was recently removed as CEO, made no effort to respond to Price’s comments about the potential closure of the city’s longtime healthcare facility.
The Williamson City Council is scheduled to meet again at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14. That will be the only council meeting for the month of November as the second meeting, which would have been Thursday, Nov. 28, will not be held due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.