By October 22, 2019 Read More →

W.Va. Gov. Justice still guides billion-dollar business empire, even though he said he wouldn’t

By Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette-Mail

Editor’s Note: This article was produced in partnership with the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Last fall, Gov. Jim Justice called reporters to his office in the West Virginia Capitol for a hastily arranged news conference.

Sitting behind a table and flanked by GOP lawmakers, the governor touted the latest budget surplus and announced a proposed pay raise for teachers and a plan to fix the state’s underfunded public employee health care plan.

“I don’t want to flaunt or rub people’s noses in anything, but the Republicans have delivered,” Justice said. “There is no story for this state and our people any more important than what is happening right here in this story today.”

But within minutes, he ended the event and dismissed the lawmakers, saying they had pressing state business. The governor took just one question.

“Nobody else? Great,” he said, banging his palms on the desk. “Let’s go.”

Justice had somewhere else to be. Across town, one of his energy companies, Bluestone Coal Corp., was due in federal court. The firm had sued a competitor for $80 million after a drilling accident had flooded a mine. And as Bluestone’s owner, Justice was playing a key role in the settlement talks. The parties spent two days negotiating a deal, and he was there when they gathered in a courtroom to present their agreement to the judge. …

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