CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Another West Virginia government agency has received a federal subpoena for records involving Gov. Jim Justice’s private holdings.
The Department of Revenue was asked last month for records relating to dozens of Justice’s companies and their tax obligations.
Federal investigators also want records related to Justice’s announcement in 2018 that he had cleared up tax debts with the state.
That was when Justice appeared in the Governor’s Conference Room along with Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy and other state officials who are his employees to say his West Virginia tax debt had been cleared.
The state officials did not specify how much debt had been cleared up or what percentage was paid.
“It was vetted, reviewed, and all parties have agreed to the appropriate amounts,” Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy said that day.
Justice, also speaking that day, said he had exerted no influence over the state officials.
“I never spoke one word to either one of these people,” the governor said.
Justice seemed to allude to negotiations that led to an agreement on what should be paid.
“I have told you that these people have conducted what their work — and in any work, there’s going to be disputes, you know, where one party doesn’t think they owe something and the other party does think they owe it and everything and they work things out,” the governor said.
“And I’m sure there was some give and take as they went through whatever they were doing.”
This is the second known subpoena asking a state agency about Justice’s private holdings.
The Department of Commerce was earlier asked for records involving The Greenbrier, The Greenbrier Classic golf event and Old White Charities, all run by Justice and his family.
The federal Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section asked for the Commerce materials. There is no such label on the Revenue subpoena but it says the information was requested by federal attorneys in Washington, D.C.
West Virginia MetroNews obtained each of the subpoenas through Freedom of Information Act requests to the agencies.
Justice is not only the governor, but is said to be West Virginia’s only billionaire. He has long been dogged by questions over debts and unpaid fines.
A 2016 National Public Radio report that was published when Justice was running for governor said his companies owed $15 million in taxes and fines.
That amount was spread over six states. The amount has grown, with additional tax liens being filed since the original report.
The amount in West Virginia was $4.71 million, according to NPR.
Justice has acknowledged a federal investigation and says he is cooperating. The focus scope of the investigation has been unclear.
The subpoena from Revenue, combined with the subpoena to Commerce, makes it clear the focus is Justice’s business and that the probe is broader than it might originally have seemed.
The Department of Revenue received its subpoena April 11. The subpoena says the information needed to be presented to a federal grand jury on April 30, which was Tuesday.
The subpoena designates the scope of the request.
The time period is Jan. 2, 2010, until Dec. 31, 2016. That period includes the fall that Justice was elected governor and stops short of his inauguration in January, 2017.
The investigators asked for tax records involving two pages of companies owned by Justice and his family.
And they wanted information about the settlement announced publicly by Justice indicating that his tax obligations and the obligations of his companies had been cleared up in West Virginia.
The information was supposed to include records of any lien filed by the state against Justice or his properties. They wanted records of the tax obligations, too.
Prosecutors asked for any communications between the Department of Revenue and anyone with Justice’s companies regarding taxes or other debt to the state.
Moreover, they wanted records of any meetings about the tax obligation, including minutes or notes, involving anyone with the Department of Revenue.
And they wanted any calendar or calendar entry about any meeting between a representative of Revenue and any officer of Justice’s companies.
In addition to asking for the subpoena, MetroNews asked for any documents that were provided by Revenue in response to the federal probe.
The response from Revenue addressed that aspect of the request by saying, “The Department has not provided any public documents in response to this subpoena.”
The Department does not consider tax records for companies or individuals to be public documents. But it’s unclear how that response might cover materials such as minutes, notes or calendar entries.
Governor Justice briefly addressed the federal investigation during a broad-ranging press conference on Thursday afternoon.
“I have not been interviewed,” the governor said. “I told you before, but, I try to answer every question. I try to not dodge anything whatsoever. But our attorneys have been really clear to say in regard to this we have to honor the investigation, be respectful of the investigation, that’s what we want to do but at the end of the day there’s just so much that I can say.
“When it boils down to it, I’d love to go off and tell you about anything I know about anything and everything but I just can’t. I just can’t.”