By October 8, 2016 Read More →

Taxes on The Greenbrier went unpaid for months

By Andrew Brown

The Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Jim Justice had owed more than three quarters of a million dollars, for roughly half a year, for his business operations at the historic Greenbrier resort, the gem of his West Virginia business holdings. 

Federal tax liens and releases filed with the Greenbrier County Clerk’s Office show that Justice, West Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, had not paid $763,826 in federal taxes that were due in December 2015 and March 2016, until August and September of this year

All of the tax debts were owed months before the resort, White Sulphur Springs and the surrounding county were hit with torrential rain and severe flooding that swept away homes and killed more than 20 people at the end of June. 

Almost all of the once-delinquent debts were for federal withholding taxes, which is money that employers pull from workers’ paychecks and are required to pass on to the federal government for Social Security and Medicare programs for seniors. Not paying withholding taxes can be a criminal offense, if the act is found to be willful. 

“At the time this took place, a new vendor had been hired to take care of payroll,” Coppoolse said. “It’s not unusual with new vendors to have things fall through the cracks. Once The Greenbrier and the vendor found out about it, the issue was taken care of immediately. At this time, no liens exist.”

This isn’t the first time one of Justice’s more than 100 companies has been cited for not paying its taxes on time. His companies in West Virginia were late paying $3.9 million in local property taxes earlier this year and, in September, it was reported that Justice’s Kentucky Fuel Corp. owed another $742,229 in excise and withholding taxes for the coal company’s operations in Logan County. 

On Friday, NPR revealed that Justice’s coal operations owed $15 million in local, state and federal taxes, as well as fines assessed as part of mine safety violations. The national news organization scoured tax records in six states to find the delinquencies for Kentucky Fuel and other coal-related businesses owned by Justice. 

The NPR story did not look at the back taxes for The Greenbrier resort that Justice saved from bankruptcy in 2009 or his other business holdings that are not involved in the coal industry. 

When Justice’s companies and his campaign were presented with NPR’s findings, they suggested that Justice was doing the right thing by not having his coal companies file for bankruptcy, like other mining operations have in the past year. They cited the downturn in the coal industry as the reason that the billionaire’s coal companies had not paid up. 

But the federal tax liens that were filed against Greenbrier Hotel Corp. in July — and paid off in the following two months — show that it is not only Justice’s coal holdings that have a problem with not paying their taxes on time. 

In recent years, Justice has made headlines at the resort by bringing the PGA Tour and the NFL’s New Orleans Saints’ preseason camp to the southeastern corner of West Virginia. Throughout his gubernatorial campaign, he has held up The Greenbrier as an example of his ability to resurrect troubled businesses. He has said he can do the same with the West Virginia state government. 

Officials with West Virginia’s Republican Party said the scope and repetitive nature of Justice’s tax problems suggest that the Democratic candidate either isn’t as good a businessman as he says or is intentionally not paying his taxes. 

“Jim Justice fails at everything he does,” state party Chairman Conrad Lucas said. “How can we dare trust him with the obligations of running the state of West Virginia?” 

Justice, who often is considered the state’s wealthiest individual, also has caught flak for loaning nearly $2.9 million to his campaign while many of the tax delinquencies for his coal companies went unpaid. The federal withholding taxes that had been owed for The Greenbrier resort also had been delayed while Justice was pumping more than $1 million into his campaign. 

“I think it’s pretty clear that Jim Justice has a history of unpaid bills and taxes,” said Kent Gates, the spokesman for Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Cole. “He stiffs seniors. He stiffs local families. He stiffs schools. 

“He should really stop spending money on his campaign until he can get this straight.” 

Reach Andrew Brown at andrew.brown@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @Andy_Ed_Brown on Twitter.

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