Federal Grand Jury Issues W.Va. Commerce Dept. Subpoena Related to Gov. Justice's Family Businesses

Apr 9, 2019

This is a developing story and may be updated.

 

A federal grand jury has issued a subpoena to the West Virginia Department of Commerce related to the sponsorship of a PGA golf tournament held at The Greenbrier and a non-profit offshoot of the resort. The subpoena called on the state commerce department to hand over records to the U.S. Department of Justice last week.

Gov. Jim Justice -- whose family's companies own The Greenbrier, a golf tournament that takes place there and other entities -- is named in the subpoena, along with his children and others involved in the family's businesses and organizations.

WVMetroNews first reported the existence of the federal grand jury subpoena Tuesday after requesting public records via the Freedom of Information Act from the Commerce Department.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting filed a similar public records request last week seeking a copy of the subpoena and records responsive to the subpoena. Commerce Department officials provided a copy of the subpoena to West Virginia Public Broadcasting on Tuesday.

The subpoena called on the custodian of records at the West Virginia Department of Commerce to hand over records collected between January 1, 2014 and the day the subpoena was issued, March 6, 2019, related to The Greenbrier, The Greenbrier Classic golf tournament, A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier or Old White Charities, a non-profit tied to the historic resort in White Sulphur Springs. According to the subpoena, records were to be delivered to the U.S. District Court in Charleston on April 2.

The request included contracts or amenity agreements between the state and those entities owned or operated by the Justice Family Companies.

Additionally, the subpoena called for exemption requests from those entities filed with the West Virginia Ethics Commission and any records related to the appropriation and distribution of funds to those entities.

A subpoena does not equal an indictment or the presence of illegal activity. It does, however, indicate that federal officials are looking into Justice’s private dealings.

The West Virginia Department of Commerce had been a sponsor of The Greenbrier Classic PGA Tour event for a number of years until Justice asked them to pull away from the event in June 2017 -- after he took office in January of that year.

Justice bought The Greenbrier in 2009. The Greenbrier Classic was established the following year. The name of the event was changed to A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier in 2018.

Since taking office, Justice has yet to fully divest himself from his businesses. Instead of placing control in a blind trust, Justice has said that he has handed the businesses over to his children -- with his son Jay taking over coal operations and his daughter Jill at the helm of The Greenbrier.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Justice denied any wrongdoing, saying he is cooperating with officials working the case.

“I’ve always done the right thing in my personal life, my business life, my political life and every part of my life. The people of West Virginia know that I have always been an open book, so of course, I am fully cooperating with the investigation,” Justice wrote in the statement. “We have finally gotten this state turned back in the right direction, we need to finish the job. I will continue to devote 110% of my efforts to doing exactly that.”

The statement, issued on behalf of Justice by a member of his staff directed additional questions for comment to an attorney representing James C. Justice Companies. A request for an interview with that attorney was denied -- stating only that the company has “no comment at this time.”

Officials at the West Virginia Department of Commerce confirmed Tuesday that they have responded to the subpoena.

A request by West Virginia Public Broadcasting to review records responsive to the subpoena has been granted, although that review has yet to be completed.