Properties owned by Gov. Jim Justice and his family’s network of businesses are listed among lots for sale at county courthouses next week.
The properties in Raleigh and Wyoming counties were listed in public notices as available at auction because of delinquent taxes. Property taxes in West Virginia go to support public school districts, local libraries, police, public parks and additional local government services.
“Each tract or lot as described below, will be sold to the highest bidder,” stated the notices in each county.
The Raleigh County notice includes 11 properties owned specifically by James C. Justice II, the governor. The properties in Justice’s name in the Shady Spring area add up to $28,000.
The listings in the two counties also include dozens of properties owned by Justice family businesses such as Grandview Investment Co., Tams Management, Saddlebred LLC, James Land Co., Kirby Land Co., Bluestone Resources, National Resources and James C. Justice Companies.
Each lot, according to the public notices, has been certified for auction by the state auditor’s office.
The Raleigh County auction is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 15 in the Ceremonial Court Room. The Wyoming County auction is set for 9 a.m. June 16 in the lobby of the county courthouse.
The public notice indicates that the lots still may be redeemed by whoever is responsible for paying the taxes on them: “Payments must be received prior to the close of business the day prior to the land sale.”
Justice, once described as West Virginia’s only billionaire, has been hit with recent financial pressures.
The financial problems have spiked as the Justice family businesses explore the sale of coal operations to settle a debt with international lender Credit Suisse and as the governor’s wages are garnished over still another debt.
In the case with the most money on the line, the Justice family’s longtime lender, Carter Bank & Trust, is trying to collect on more than $300 million in debts that came due in mid-April.
The filings by Carter Bank are confessions of judgment, written and signed agreements accepting liability in instances of default.
Last week, lawyers with the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil suit over $7.6 million in unpaid penalties and fees by more than a dozen companies owned by Justice and his family.
Justice has announced a high-profile campaign for U.S. Senate. In the primary election, he faces Congressman Alex Mooney, who is being backed by millions of dollars from the hardline Club for Growth, which already has an advertisement portraying Justice as a “deadbeat billionaire.”
Justice has said he does not intend to self-fund his campaign, saying it will take a team effort. So far, Justice doesn’t have any campaign finance filings with the Federal Elections Commission.
When asked about the various debts, Justice has said he turned over day-to-day operations of the businesses to his son and daughter and said the family’s businesses will make good on what they owe. And, in several instances, he has blamed political forces.
“But with all that being said, I promise you that many of the things that you may be seeing that are reported are skewed one way or another. You may absolutely be really surprised by the final outcomes. And I’ll promise you just this, that any obligation, responsibility or whatever it may be that these companies have, that they’ll be taken care of,” Justice said last month in a wide-ranging news briefing.
But there are signs of financial strain from county courthouses to federal courts.
In yet another longstanding dispute with Justice holdings over a judgment of at least $18 million, Fivemile Energy Co. of Kentucky has asked a federal judge for expedited consideration because of the other major financial pressures on the Justice family businesses.
In that case, which originally focused on mineral rights leasing, the parties are currently arguing over how much money the Justice companies even have at their disposal and whether they’ve been forthcoming about their actual financial situation.
The Fivemile filing cites the possible imminent sale of the Justice coal properties as well as the press release that raised the possibility of paying down millions of dollars of the Carter Banks debt.
“In recent months, these same companies have been representing to this court that they were so poverty stricken that they could not pay off much smaller amounts awarded by the court to the plaintiffs,” wrote lawyers for Fivemile, which has been in the federal court dispute with the Justice properties since 2012.
Lawyers for the Justice companies have objected in that case that they lack the ability to pay, maintaining that economic headwinds over the past decade have whittled more than 100 coal and farming companies to just a dozen now actively operating.
The companies in that case suggest that “operating cash is chronically scarce and transferred among companies on a just-in-time basis.”
Lawyers representing the Justice companies, in a recent filing, noted that depositions by company representatives “painted a consistent portrait of a somewhat disorganized organization whose resources are stretched to the limit with respect to both finances and personnel. The cash that comes in is almost immediately transferred from those entities that have it to those that need it.”