CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s Tax Department has confirmed it has been served with a federal subpoena for records relating to Gov. Jim Justice’s private businesses.
This makes the third state agency known to have received a subpoena in recent months.
The subpoena does not necessarily mean wrongdoing, but it does indicate a federal investigation is underway.
The Tax Department’s confirmation was expected because it falls within the state Department of Revenue. The Revenue department also confirmed a subpoena but said that any agencies that fall within it would have to make independent confirmations.
The two subpoenas are very similar, with federal investigators requesting tax information and communications applying to a list of more than 90 businesses owned by Governor Justice and his family.
The state Department of Commerce earlier confirmed receiving a subpoena. That one is a little different, focused on The Greenbrier, The Greenbrier Classic golf event and Old White Charities, which is a nonprofit associated with the others. All are led by Justice.
The Tax Department subpoena makes reference to the Public Integrity Section in the U.S. Department of Justice, which investigates public corruption.
The Tax Department received its subpoena April 12.
The Tax Department was supposed to respond to a grand jury in Charleston on April 30. The Charleston law firm Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe is serving as outside counsel for the Tax Department.
The subpoena and the others were obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by MetroNews.
Other agencies asked about subpoenas have said they have not received one.
Those include the Governor’s Office, West Virginia Lottery, the Division of Environmental Protection, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the West Virginia National Guard.
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.
The date range for records requested under the Tax Department subpoena is Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2016.
On August 6, 2018, Justice appeared in the Governor’s Conference Room along with Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy and other state officials who are his employees to declare 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.
Both the Department of Revenue and Tax Department subpoenas make reference to that event.
The Tax Department is supposed to turn over any communications between representatives of the agency and anyone representing Justice’s businesses about their taxes or other debt to the state.
Also, records of any tax obligation or other debt by the companies that was owed to the state or political subdivisions.
Plus records of any meeting between representatives of the agency about any tax obligations or other debts in which the governor or any representative of his companies participated.
Early this month, Revenue Secretary Hardy specified that the Tax Department would be responsible for its own compliance with the subpoena.
“Tax has its own set of records,” he said. “And we’re not the custodians of Tax’s records. And we certainly don’t have access to Tax’s records.”
Hardy also described Revenue’s compliance with the subpoena on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
“Of course we have undertaken that process,” Hardy said. “So it’s a very large subpoena. It’s very broad and very comprehensive. We’re working very hard to get that done.”