Speculations swirling around the City of Williamson recently came to fruition at the May 11 council meeting as the governing body terminated all financial management responsibilities from the mayor.
As an agenda item calling for the discussion of a judgement in federal court entered against Mayor Charlie Hatfield, the council moved into executive session which lasted for 50 minutes. A formal resolution prepared by the council which stripped Hatfield of all fiscal powers was read by City Attorney Nathan Brown after the body returned to open forum.
The resolution was a formal, two-page document that spelled out, in detail, the reasons for the action as well as the specific powers being stripped from Hatfield.
“Be it resolved, the members of the council hereby remove any all financial oversight from the Mayor Charles Hatfield for the duration of his term or to otherwise be restored by the council,” the resolution read.
The action was passed on a roll call vote of 4-0.
Specific details included barring the mayor’s duties as follows:
• Any check signing authority on any city account or account under the review or control of the city;
• Authority to enter into contracts on behalf of the city;
• Unilateral spending under $1,500; and
• Any other power to transfer monies or pay bills on behalf of the city absent a majority vote of the council.
The resolution stated this action does not prevent Hatfield from exercising his voting privileges during council meetings.
The council’s discussion and action followed on the heels of a default judgement entered against Hatfield by U.S. District Court Clerk Rory Smith II.
Hatfield was a defendant in a civil complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Labor which claimed that while acting as the CEO of the former Williamson Memorial Hospital, he and the hospital had withheld payroll deductions from the paychecks of hospital workers but failed to deposit them into the proper employee benefits accounts. The suit alleges those funds were placed into general accounts and used by the hospital for the payment of various expenses.
The suit was filed with the court on Sept. 6, 2022, with a 60-day timetable (Nov. 7, 2022) for him to answer. Hatfield failed to respond within the required period seven months later, the default judgement was entered on April 13, 2023
“This is a legal matter. It is still ongoing,” Hatfield said during the meeting. “I can’t say a lot, but I will have a response at our next council meeting. (The council) had already prepared, a long time ago, this resolution, so we will move along.”
Councilman Mike Casey, Ward Four, was appointed as a secondary signature authority in Hatfield’s stead.
In other actions, the council:
• Conducted a lengthy discussion with several members of the public about road conditions within the City of Williamson, primarily in respect to Elm, Mulberry and Vinson streets;
• Approved Fire Chief Joey Carey, in his role as building inspector, to send out 20 certified letters to the owners of dilapidated or abandoned buildings to notify them of condemnation; and
• Heard a report from Police Chief J.C. Dotson who said physical agility testing had been conducted and passed by police officer applicants and they will be proceeding to additional stages of the application process.