By Steven Allen Adams, For The Inter-Mountain
BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — W.Va. Gov. Jim Justice wrapped up two town hall meetings in southern West Virginia on Thursday, taking questions from the public about education reform, economic development and the growing divide between he and Senate Republicans.
The town halls were also notable for what people didn’t ask about.
Attendees did not ask whether Justice should live in Charleston as required by the state Constitution. They also didn’t ask about the myriad of federal civil cases pending regarding Justice’s family businesses, his companies’ tax issues or even the possible criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.
Despite not being asked any questions about these subjects, Justice willingly talked about the issues that have caused him and his companies to end up in court.
“I want everyone to know you don’t have to worry about my stuff,” Justice said after the event in Bluefield. “Everything is going good on my end, and every single last thing will get paid. It always has.”
The first event Thursday morning in Beckley was a friendly crowd of teachers and business leaders at the Black Knight Country Club, formerly owned by Justice and a place where he first learned to play golf.
The second event Thursday afternoon was at Bluefield State College at the bottom of the state. The crowd, made up of Mercer County teachers and local leaders, filled all the seats in the first half of the room, with more people sitting or standing in the back.
THE TAX MAN COMETH
This week, Justice’s companies paid millions of dollars in overdue property taxes in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.
According to the Kentucky Department of Revenue, Justice’s companies cut checks for more than $1.2 million in settlements with four counties. However, according to the Kentucky Herald-Leader, Floyd County plans to sue Justice’s Kentucky Fuel Corp. for $670,000 in delinquent property taxes. The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Va., reported that James C. Justice Cos. paid more than $404,000 in delinquent taxes on 55 parcels of property in Albemarle County.
In West Virginia, Justice Holdings in Raleigh County still owes the county more than $2,000 in delinquent property taxes according to the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department. That is after paying more than $167,000 in delinquent property taxes on more than 400 parcels.
Justice’s companies paid their delinquent property taxes in Greenbrier County, home to the Greenbrier Resort – which is run by daughter Jill – and other properties. According to the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Office, the taxes were paid as of June 10. The taxes were due April 1. The taxes on just one parcel were more than $700,000.
“Take the Greenbrier for instance,” Justice said in Beckley. “The Greenbrier was a few days late on their property taxes, but they paid every single dime. All the stuff in Kentucky is paid. Everything is paid in Virginia. Everything is paid. So why would you worry about it? Why would you occupy your time with it? It’s a waste of time.”
According to Justice’s January 2019 financial disclosure with the West Virginia Ethics Commission, the governor lists 123 companies he owns. Only two of those entities – companies associated with the Glade Springs Resort in Raleigh County and the Wintergreen Resort near Charlottesville, Va. – are in blind trusts to protect Justice from conflicts of interest. The remaining businesses are managed by his children, Jay and Jill Justice.
“I’m involved this much in my family’s businesses,” Justice said in Beckley, putting his index finger a half an inch from his thumb to denote how little he is involved.
However, Justice did admit Thursday that he gave son Jay advice in the purchase of a coal-cleaning preparation plant in his native Wyoming County. Justice said the Green Ridge facility could be back up and running in 60 days, with negotiations ongoing with the United Mine Workers of America.
He estimated the facility and the mines that could restart nearby could bring 500 jobs back to southern West Virginia.
“Not only am I your governor, but if I can help just a little bit, especially in an area where I grew up and we can bring back 500 more jobs in West Virginia, I want to do that,” Justice said. …