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DOJ subpoenas state for documents related to governor's companies

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a subpoena in March to the West Virginia Department of Commerce seeking documents related to the state’s relationship with some of Gov. Jim Justice’s private businesses.

The DOJ’s Public Integrity Section requested sponsorship contracts and amenity agreements between the state and The Greenbrier resort, which Justice owns; A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, a PGA tournament the resort hosts; and Old White Charities, the nonprofit that operates the tournament formerly known as The Greenbrier Classic.

Similarly, the DOJ asked for contract exemptions between the Justice business operations and the West Virginia Ethics Commission, and records related to the appropriation of funds from the Department of Commerce or the Development Office to the Justice operations.

Also sought are communications between state officials and any Justice company.

The request specifically mentions Justice; his son, Jay; his daughter, Jillean Justice, and her husband, Adam Long; former tournament director Habibi Mamone; COO of The Greenbrier, Elmer Coppoolse; former tournament director Tim McNeely; and four employees of Justice’s private companies.

The request seeks records from between Jan. 1, 2014, and March 6, 2019.

Included in the subpoena is a demand for the “authorized records custodian” to appear before a grand jury on April 2. However, Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch and Justice’s top attorney, Brian Abraham, said the department provided the records to prosecutors but did not need to testify before a grand jury.

Justice responded to the subpoena in a statement issued through a spokesman.

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

Stephen Ball, general counsel for the James C. Justice Companies, declined to comment or answer emailed questions.

Abraham said he and his staff did not review the documents they provided to prosecutors before submitting them.

“I received a call from counsel at Commerce, they advised they had a subpoena,” he said. “We gave them a two-word reply: Answer it.”

Gaunch said he did not review the documents provided to the grand jury before they went out either.

“I’m not concerned,” he said. “I just try to do my job each day. I wake up and try to bring jobs to West Virginia, and I don’t get sidelined by the rest of it.”

Abraham said that, to his knowledge, this is the only subpoena the state has received during the Justice administration.

A DOJ spokeswoman would not comment for this report.

A subpoena is a tool used by prosecutors to compel the production of evidence or witness testimony to a grand jury.

Justice’s relationship with The Greenbrier has been the subject of public scrutiny before. While he initially said he would put his private holdings into a blind trust, he has since walked back that promise. He still reports ownership of The Greenbrier and Old White Charities on his annual disclosure to the West Virginia Ethics Commission.

The state Development Office, a division of the Department of Commerce, has had to seek special permission to attend business summits and The Greenbrier Classic at the resort, given Justice’s role in both operations.

The Ethics Commission also approved a partnership last year between the state Division of Tourism and The Greenbrier in an effort to attract tourists to the state.

Mamone appeared alongside Justice and state flood officials in June regarding stalled efforts of the RISE West Virginia program.

The DOJ’s Public Integrity System, which falls within its Criminal Division, oversees the federal effort to combat corruption through the prosecution of elected and appointed public officials at all levels of government, according to its website.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at

jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow

@jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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