Companies owned by Jim Justice forced to pay off some of their long-standing debts

Companies owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and his family are being forced to pay off some of their long-standing debts to companies and counties in that state and Kentucky.

In West Virginia, “court cases, including some from afar, keep resulting in local law enforcement officers being asked to assess what personal property is available from Gov. Jim Justice, said to be the state’s richest man — and seize it,” Brad McElhinny reports for MetroNews in Charleston.

Siemens Financial Services is asking the Greenbrier County sheriff to seize Justice’s personal property and check his assets. A Justice-owned company, Southern Coal, owes Siemens almost $4 million, but Justice agreed in court to personally pay $2.79 million on the debt. “He didn’t do so fast enough to satisfy the company. It’s now trying to force the collection of what’s left,” McElhinny reports.

In Kentucky, Justice coal companies were forced to start paying back delinquent property taxes to counties if they wanted the mining license for their company, Kentucky Fuel, to be reinstated. Most of Justice’s debt was for Kentucky Fuel, ownership of which he transferred to his son and daughter in 2017. State officials agreed to waive penalties and interest on tax debts to most Kentucky counties in order to reach the agreement and start bringing in money for counties that might not have been able to collect otherwise, Bill Estep and Will Wright report for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

“Knott, Pike, Harlan and Magoffin counties received checks last week totaling nearly $1.2 million, and Justice’s organization has pledged to pay an equal amount over the next six months,” Estep and Wright report. “The agreement did not cover Floyd County, where … Kentucky Fuel has a delinquent tax bill of $671,000” because the county attorney won’t waive all interest and penalties.

The cash is sorely needed. “Counties get money from a tax on coal production, so their revenue has withered because of the drop in production and because of a state decision to reduce the valuation of coal reserves, forcing cuts for local governments and schools,” Estep and Wright report. “Knott County, for instance, has laid off 32 employees since the first of the year, sold 15 vehicles to reduce costs, and cut the number of hot meals it provides for senior citizens.”

The Rural Blog is published by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.