Listen Now: Morning News

West Virginia Tax Department files liens over $3.5 million in unpaid sales taxes by Greenbrier Resort

The State of West Virginia Tax Department’s compliance division filed seven liens for unpaid sales taxes owed by The Greenbrier Hotel Corp.

The total for the liens filed Feb. 5 is $3,521,047.49. The amounts due to the state had built up over a period of months from last July to November.

Gov. Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice leads the executive branch that includes the tax department. His family, famously, owns The Greenbrier Resort.

Asked by MetroNews today whether the resort should pay the state what is owed, Justice said he had been unaware previously.

“If that be the case, without any question the owner of The Greenbrier should pay the taxes,” Justice said.

“I really don’t know anything about this one at all. This one I really don’t know a thing in the world about it. Brand new news to me. But I’ll check it out.”

Justice gained goodwill and steps toward statewide name recognition when he bought The Greenbrier out of bankruptcy in spring of 2009. It has continued to be a financial and political asset. Last week, congressional Republicans gathered at the resort in White Sulphur Springs for their retreat. 

Over the years, Justice has said he’s focusing on the affairs of the state and that he has turned over management of hospitality operations to his daughter, Jill, and coal operations to his son, Jay.

Justice’s most recent, 14-page state ethics disclosure lists Greenbrier Hotel Corp. among his assets. Greenbrier Hotel Corp’s registration with the Secretary of State’s Office lists Justice family members and associates as the directors.

Justice’s financial disclosure as a candidate for U.S. Senate lists Greenbrier Hotel Investment among his assets (“Description: Owns The Greenbrier Resort”). His liabilities on that disclosure also describe a 0% interest personal line of credit from Greenbrier Hotel Corporation valued at the range of $5 million to $25 million.

In 2017, shortly after he took office, Justice signed a letter to state employees saying progress on placing family-owned assets into a blind trust was hindered by the complexity of financial organizations.

“I don’t want a thing from this office.  The last thing I want is a conflict of interest between my family’s businesses and state government.  Even the slightest whiff of a conflict won’t fly with me,” he said in that letter. 

The governor also said then “I expect all laws, regulations and policies to be strictly adhered to and enforced with respect to any business associated with my family.”

The section of state code that deals with taxes unpaid to the state says the obligation continues until the tax, penalties and interest are paid or after 10 years has gone by. The state Tax Commissioner can release a lien when the debt is secured by bond or some other form of security.

If the situation progresses to court, “All persons having liens upon or having any interest in the property shall be made parties to the action.”

Vendors such as The Greenbrier Resort — or any mom and pop store owned by Toby and Edith — are supposed to impose sales taxes at the time of purchase. West Virginia sales taxes are required to be file and remitted monthly, quarterly, or annually, depending on an assigned filing frequency.

Justice, who is running for U.S. Senate, made his initial political reputation as a “business guy” who can “buzz the numbers.” The family businesses have had notable financial stresses over the years, though, including a $300 million claim by longtime lender Carter Bank & Trust over personal guarantees on loans that went into default nearly a year ago.

Justice addressed another question about those financial problems during today’s briefing from Randy Yohe, a veteran reporter with West Virginia Public Broadcasting. “Will your continuing legal and financial entanglements affect your ability to serve in the Senate, and what should voters think?” he asked.

The governor responded to that question by saying he has focused on the affairs of state government.

During Justice’s conclusion to the briefing, he circled back to the topic of his family business network as corporate citizens.

“It’s easy. It’s really, really easy to sit back and look for just anything to throw a rock at somebody. Absolutely, from the standpoint of any personal stuff that we may have in our family — our family’s built an empire of stuff and employs lots and lots of people, and I’m really, really proud of what they’ve done,” he said.

“Well, at the end of the day, it all seems to work out, doesn’t it? For crying out loud then why in the world do we go through all this world and all these distractions, all this kind of stuff. At the end of the day, I always keep my eye on the ball: That’s West Virginia. That’s what I do. That’s what I do every single day, and it’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

The governor said he wants the best for citizens, who he calls “Toby and Edith.”

“I want goodness for Toby and Edith, and I’ve delivered there,” he said. “So with all that being said, I don’t know why we occupy time with distractions.”

More News

MetroNews This Morning 4-12-24
Summary of West Virginia news/sports/weather for Friday, April 12, 2024
April 12, 2024 - 6:24 am
ABC two-hour special revisits the Skylar Neese murder
20/20 Investigates will air Friday night.
April 12, 2024 - 4:31 am
Kanawha County emergency officials answering numerous calls relating to flash flooding
A few dozen water rescues have been made in Kanawha County.
April 11, 2024 - 10:20 pm
Flooding threat replaces wind threat Thursday evening in West Virginia
39 counties are part of the watch.
April 11, 2024 - 9:40 pm