WELCH, W.Va. — McDowell County is in a financial mess according to Sheriff Martin West.
The county is the target of a lawsuit by sheriff’s deputies who claim they are owed overtime and the county commission recently laid off eight county employees amid dwindling funds.
Sheriff West told MetroNews Monday he inherited a lot of problems with a growing drug trade and discrepancies in hiring of deputies in the previous administration. All of the problems are coming to a head for West, but he said most notably is the refusal of one particular coal company to pay taxes.
“We’ve got a Russian company that owes one-point-two million dollars,” he said. “They only became delinquent April 1, but we’ve got a suit against them through the prosecuting attorney.”
The company is Bluestone Industries, formerly owned by Jim Justice, but purchased in 2009 by Mechel, the largest mineral and metals company in Russia. West is hoping they can find legal grounds to seize assets of the company to either be auctioned off or to compel the company to pay it’s back taxes before the end of the fiscal year in July.
“They don’t seem to care because they’re hoping to sell out and get out,” said West. “They’re in the process of selling out to the Chinese.”
West has also reached out to the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office in hopes they have the power to initiate action. West would like to see the Attorney General Patrick Morrisey bring forward the power of other state agencies to hold up mining permits until the tax bill is paid.
“It’s a scam more or less,” he said. “A county that’s deprived as much as ours and they want to come in and get all of the mineral resources and then get out.”
The county commission laid off eight workers last Thursday to come up with $150,000 to pay overtime to sheriff’s deputies. Commissioners said there could be more layoffs in the future.