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Williamson Burghal Board voted aftermost ages to accessible an analysis into Mayor Charlie Hatfield’s role in the acquirement of the old Williamson Aerial Academy acreage from the Mingo Canton Bureau afterwards a botheration with the property’s appellation came to light.
The title, from 1916, holds a agreement that if the acreage anytime chock-full actuality a accessible school, buying would backslide to the city. The catechism burghal board is attractive to investigate is whether Hatfield had ability of the action afore he, forth with business ally who anatomy HKL, LLC, purchased the acreage at bargain aftermost year.
“This wasn’t annihilation we knew about aback we purchased it,” Hatfield said. “I’ve been in absolute acreage a continued time. I had no admiration to acquirement acreage that had a appellation issue. No one would if they knew an affair like that existed.”
Council associates Randall Price and Sherri Brown brought in alfresco admonition — Hissam, Foreman, Donovan, Ritchie, PLLC — to analysis the acquirement and history of the acreage afore bringing the affair up in a burghal board meeting, accurate by the Williamson Daily Account at the time.
The basic analysis into the acquirement yielded a address advertence that, while there is currently no affirmation of arrant bent conduct, there is a adventitious that Hatfield, if he knew about the band in the appellation that would accept accepted the acreage aback to the city, could accept alternate in a “fraudulent scheme” by accepting acreage through apocryphal pretenses and concealing accessible records.
The address and affirmation — including accomplished account letters from the Williamson Daily News, bindle maps of the property, account from canton bureau and burghal board meetings, and annal documenting the property’s accomplished owners — accession several questions: should the property, bought at bargain for added than $800,000, absolutely be an asset for the city, and are the owners — namely Hatfield — benefiting monetarily from the property, alike admitting their ownership, legally, is actuality questioned.
“Like best baby towns in West Virginia, Williamson is struggling,” wrote Ryan Donovan, who is apery Price and Brown, in an emailed statement. “My audience accept a adamantine time actuality asked to cut the account for law administration and aboriginal responders while Mayor Hatfield claims buying of an $800,000 asset that may actual able-bodied accord to the City.”
The acreage was purchased by Joe and Cheryl Lycan from the Mingo Canton Bureau in October 2018. Eight canicule afterwards it was purchased, the Lycans abutting with Hatfield and Sam Kapourales to anatomy HKL, LLC, which took over the property.
Until aftermost year, allotment of the architecture housed Ambassador Christian Academy, a clandestine Christian academy whose use of the acreage came beneath blaze due to an declared “sweetheart deal” that had the canton advantageous a majority of its utilities and accepting alone $1 in rent. Critics accused the canton bureau of declining to account the break of abbey and state, adage a government bureau should not be amenable for monetarily acknowledging a religious organization.
ACA appear it would leave the architecture in May 2018. There were several baby nonprofits that would occasionally use the property, about all tenants were notified aftermost October that, due to the sale, they were to vacate, according to account from a appropriate affair of the Mingo Canton Commission.
That aforementioned meeting, captivated on Oct. 29, 2018, Hatfield, forth with the Lycans, batten to commissioners about problems that became credible in the property’s buying that was “clouding the title.” This advance to closing of the auction actuality delayed added than the 10 canicule accustomed by code.
At the meeting, canton commissioners said Duke Jewell, Mingo Canton prosecuting attorney, would abetment in allegorical the appellation back the acreage was auctioned by the county.
Per the acreage records, best accoutrements of the aerial academy acreage went from the Mingo Canton Board of Education (which captivated the antecedent appellation in question), to the Mingo Canton Redevelopment Authority (which busy it to ACA), to the Mingo Canton Bureau (which auctioned it to HKL, LLC).
Hatfield appear beforehand this year that Campbellsville Christian Academy, based in Kentucky, was absorbed in demography over the acreage to accessible a accessory campus. The West Virginia Board for Community and Technical College Education, at a affair Oct. 24, accustomed the academy to accolade accessory degrees and certificates. The academy affairs to action programs on Christian ministry, cosmetology and barbering, according to a account absolution from the school.
“The burghal government, residents, anybody will account from accepting an academy like Campbellsville in that building,” Hatfield said. “The acreage there before, they weren’t on the tax rolls, there wasn’t any money advancing in to advice anyone. We didn’t accomplish this accretion aloof for ourselves, but to accompany article to the burghal for all of our benefit.”
At the auction aftermost year, Joe Lycan told the Williamson Daily Account they hoped to accessible some array of for-profit academy in the property. He said there were too abounding nonprofits aural the burghal banned operating with tax break that do not advice awning basement improvements or added burghal expenses.
For burghal board associates in Williamson, apropos don’t activation from the advised affairs for the property, but whether these affairs are acknowledged in the aboriginal place, and whether the burghal — and its citizens — are accident out on an befalling to account from buying of at atomic a allocation of the aerial academy property.
Through acknowledged counsel, and through statements accustomed to the Williamson Daily Account and at abundant burghal board meetings, Price has been bright that he and the board are not saying, at this point, that any crimes accept been committed. Instead, they appetite an analysis to ensure that is not the case.
Jewell, the canton prosecutor, told the Williamson Daily Account aftermost anniversary that some questions abide as to how an analysis would be handled, and he affairs to appear the city’s abutting board meeting, set for Thursday, to ask allegorical questions and hopefully get some answers.
“We appetite the facts afore affective to the abutting akin … I aloof feel like that acreage belongs to the Burghal of Williamson, and that’s what we appetite to know,” Price said at a board affair aftermost month. “I’m not attractive at any bent action at this point, but you know, we appetite to see area this affair goes, and I anticipate the big losers in it all is the Burghal of Williamson.”
Caity Coyne is a band affiliate with Address for America, an action of The GroundTruth Project. Reach Caity Coyne at Media 304-348-7939 or chase @CaityCoyne on Twitter.
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