By Richard Rourk
The Unicoi County Election Commission met on Tuesday, Sept. 1, to discuss an investigation into a local representative.
According to Unicoi County Election Commission Chairman Thomas Reeves, a formal complaint was made against the Town of Unicoi Vice Mayor Doug Hopson.
“Both (Unicoi County Election) Commissioner Marvin Rogers and I received phone calls from a concerned citizen that Mr. (Doug) Hopson lives at a different address than the one he listed, ” Reeves said. ”The concerned citizen forwarded an official complaint that states Mr. Hopson does not reside at Hopson Lane in the Town of Unicoi. Considering that we had two previous complaints, we really got into the weeds to find out if Mr. Hopson resides at Hopson Lane.”
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. “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.”
For concerned citizens in attendance during the Sept. 1 meeting, the situation could lead to huge ramifications.
“Not only could every vote that Mr. Hopson made for the town be nullified, if he is found guilty of this, it could lead to other charges,” concerned citizen William “Bill” Collison said. “Not only is it a felony to falsify those legal documents, if others knew he falsified those documents they could be charged with subornation of perjury, which is the crime of persuading or permitting a person to commit perjury, which is the swearing of a false oath, to tell the truth in a legal proceeding, whether spoken or written. The mayor and town attorney could’ve known that Hopson falsified legal documents if he is found guilty.”
Another concerned citizen was interested in the citizens’ options if the DA doesn’t move on with charges.
“This is important to me because voting, to me, is the most sacred thing that can be done,” concerned citizen Norman O’Dell said. “I wonder what our next move will be.”
Reeves advised that the election commission cannot move forward, but citizens may have options if the DA doesn’t move forward with a case.
“If you have enough evidence you could possibly sue the town, that’s my understanding,” Reeves said. “We may never know what the DA’s findings are. That report is sealed if he doesn’t bring this case to the grand jury on the 8th of September; its findings may never be public.”
Following the Sept. 1 meeting, The Erwin Record reached out to Hopson for an official comment.
“I have cooperated with the DA’s office, and I’ve told everyone upfront about my residence,” Hopson said. “We are temporarily living at my mother-in-law’s house, but I’m up at the family farm house in Unicoi working on it every day. We still own it. 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. I have always done my best for Unicoi and my heart has always been with my friends and neighbors here in town.”
Unicoi County Commission Administrator of Elections Sarah Fain confirmed that Hopson is not on the Nov. 3 ballot for the Town of Unicoi Alderman race and that Hopson did not return paperwork by the deadline to run.
*Editor’s note: The Erwin Record will post an updated version of this story on its website (www.erwinrecord.net) should the DA’s office release any information.