The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 17, 2013

Mount Hope nonprofits clash over old high school

Criminal investigation of William Sohonage by State Police ongoing

MOUNT HOPE — Several years of bitter conflict between two community groups that both claim to want the best for Mount Hope are coming to a head in a West Virginia State Police investigation.

State Police Sgt. S.E. Wolfe confirms that a criminal investigation of William Sohonage and his dealings with the former Mount Hope High School is ongoing.

Wolfe says many have been interviewed for the case, but he has yet to sit down with Sohonage himself to hear his viewpoint. He would not comment further.

At the center of the clash are Mount Hope Heritage & Hope (MHHH) and The Center of Hope, both nonprofits headquartered in the town of 1,414 that now calls itself “The Gateway to the Summit” because of its proximity to the new Boy Scouts of America’s Summit Bechtel Reserve.

Along with a quasi-governmental organization called Mount Hope ON TRAC, the two groups are sparring over the ownership of the former Mount Hope High School, which was given to MHHH by the West Virginia Board of Education in June 2011.

MHHH’s attorney Ryan Donovan of Bailey & Glasser says his client has not filed a lawsuit.

“And we’re hopeful that we won’t ever have to,” he says. “But all that is kind of up in the air, pending the investigation.”

MHHH did provide The Register-Herald with an official statement, in which they accuse Sohonage of fraud.

The group says they never voted to transfer the school to The Center of Hope, that

Sohonage had no authority to execute a deed doing so on their behalf, and that he acted without their knowledge.

One of The Center of Hope’s board members, local business owner Lynn Loetterle, says the group is in the process of retaining an attorney and would not comment on the record at this time.

The Center of Hope originally offered to open up its books to The Register-Herald but, after learning of the police investigation, decided against it.

They maintain that their finances are in good order and that their records will be independently audited to prove it.

Sohonage also said he would not speak on the record about the situation, at the request of his board.

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