© 2021 West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Telling West Virginia's Story
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Gov. Jim Justice on Commerce Dept. Subpoena: 'I Don't Have Anything Whatsoever to Hide'

Outgoing W.Va. Senator Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha (right), shakes hands with Gov. Jim Justice on Dec. 4, 2018 as he accepts the position of Secretary of Commerce.
Perry Bennett
West Virginia Legislative Photography
In this file photo, then-outgoing state Sen. Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha (right), shakes hands with Gov. Jim Justice on Dec. 4, 2018 as Gaunch accepts the position of Secretary of Commerce.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday he has nothing to hide and respects the federal grand jury process after a subpoena was issued targeting state commerce records related to a posh resort he owns and a PGA golf tournament held there.

The sweeping subpoena seeks contracts, communications and financial records from the state relating to the Greenbrier resort, the annual golf tournament and the tournament's financial arm. The subpoena names Justice, his son and daughter and other high-ranking resort employees.

"I don't have anything whatsoever to hide," the billionaire governor told reporters in Fayetteville. "Anything you're going to find around me is going to center around — there's some mistakes, naturally, along the way. But anything you're going to find around me is going to be goodness and it's going to be the right thing."

The state commerce department previously sponsored The Greenbrier Classic, now known as A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.

According to online records, the state's most recent payment to tournament operator Old White Charities amounted to $1.93 million in 2015.

Justice ordered the arrangement to stop after taking office in 2017, saying he didn't want any perception of impropriety.

The PGA Tour relies on nonprofit groups to run its tournaments. Old White Charities has made headlines over the years.

Last year the group was ordered in federal court to pay nearly $1.4 million on unpaid bills for rental equipment and services after the 2016 tournament was canceled by deadly floods.

In 2017, a federal appeals court ruled the nonprofit group would be stuck with almost $200,000 in payouts made to fans at the 2015 tournament after two golfers aced the 18th hole. The holes-in-one were made on a 137-yard hole. The group's insurance policy only covered them on holes at least 170 yards long.

Last year the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Old White Charities allocated about 4% of its total spending toward actual charitable causes between 2010 and 2015.

Justice has been reported to be the richest man in West Virginia, with a fortune estimated at $1.9 billion by Forbes magazine. He and his family own coal and agriculture businesses, and Justice said Thursday he has put in $50 million of his own money to hold the golf tournament at the resort's Old White TPC course since 2010.

The governor typically promotes patience as lawmakers work on crafting bills, and he urged the same with the federal grand jury's inquiry.

"We want to be respectful to those, respect the process, tell them and give them anything and everything they ever want," he said. "But at the same time, when you're in this position, anybody can blow a whistle. And anybody can say anything they want and cast a stone. It's tough."

Justice was elected at age 65 as a Democrat in his first run for statewide office in a largely self-funded campaign. He switched to the Republican Party in August 2017.

Justice bought The Greenbrier out of bankruptcy in 2009. He put his daughter, Jill Justice, in charge of the Greenbrier after he took office in 2017, while his son, Jay, took over his coal businesses.

Stephen Ball, general counsel for the James C. Justice Companies, declined to comment on the subpoena Wednesday.

In addition to Justice and his children, the subpoena seeks records of any communications between the state and eight others who acted on behalf of the tournament, the resort and Old White Charities.

They are former Greenbrier Classic executive directors Habibi Mamone and Tim McNeely; Greenbrier resort chief operating officer Elmer Coppoolse and vice president of operations Terry Miller; Greenbrier Sporting Club vice president and general manager Larry Klein; Justice Holdings chief financial officer Elaine Butler; Bluestone Industries vice president of treasury Summer Harrison, and Jill Justice's husband, Adam Long. Telephone calls to them either went unanswered or messages were not returned.

WVPB is local news, education, music, and entertainment for West Virginia.
Your donation today will help keep us strong and vital.