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DA yet to release Hopson investigation results

By Richard Rourk

An investigation involving a local official is now in the hands of the District Attorney’s office.

The investigation centers on the residence of Town of Unicoi Vice Mayor Doug Hopson. A formal complaint was made by a concerned citizen that calls into question if Hopson is a resident of the Town of Unicoi.

From the formal complaint, an investigation by the Unicoi County Election Commission was made and their findings were sealed and sent to District Attorney Ken Baldwin’s office.

Unicoi County Election Commission Chairman Thomas Reeves was careful to follow the course procedures in this investigation.

“We reached out to Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley and he guided us to the District Attorney’s office,” Reeves said during a Sept. 1 election commission meeting. “According to the sheriff, this is a state issue. Upon looking at the state guidelines, we have forwarded our findings to DA Ken Baldwin’s office. It is now out of our hands. I have covered every track to make sure that this was done by the book and I have remained objective. I have no dog in this hunt.”

The Erwin Record recently reached out to Hopson and he feels that the motive behind the investigation is political.

“I have cooperated with the DA’s office, and I’ve told everyone upfront about my residence,” Hopson said. “I’m not sure why they are bringing this up as I am not running this time. These complaints come from the same group of people and it’s disgusting. I have heard that a member of this group has asked for my name to be removed from a prayer list at a local church. I really wish they would focus that energy on something positive. This town has hosted many events and done so much for the community. We are sitting good financially and we always have the best interest of the citizens at heart. I want to thank all of those that support me. As far as my seat, I’m not running this time because of my health, not because of this. I’m not sure what they are after, but I have been compliant every step of the way.”

Concerned citizen Deborah McWhirter explained that the complaint has more to do with legalities.

“If state law should prevail, he (Hopson) should have been out of office in April of 2019,” McWhirter said. “He should not be on the board anymore given the information we have now. He should not have been there voting for the citizens of Unicoi. The citizens own this town, not the mayor or Mr. Hopson. It’s the town’s money, not theirs. They have been performing fraud on the citizens of the town.”

According to the Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch, this is a “political” move.

“It’s all political,” Lynch said. “It’s a disgrace they are doing this to Doug (Hopson) and typical behavior of this group. It’s an abuse of cancel culture in action. It’s disgusting. Doug Hopson has done a lot for this town. He has really worked hard for this town, more than most. Doug was born and raised in this town, he is a true Unicoi blueblood.”

The District Attorney’s office declined to comment to The Erwin Record for this story, except to confirm an investigation has been done and that the grand jury is scheduled to meet again in early October.