Floyd County Attorney Ketih Bartley

Floyd County Attorney Keith Bartley mailed a notice on Wednesday, June 12, notifying a company owned by the family of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice that the county intends to enforce a lien on delinquent taxes.

The notice, sent to the Kentucky Fuel Corporation and its president James C. Justice in Roanoke, Va., reports that the company owes nearly $670,300 to Floyd County in unmined coal taxes, property taxes, interest and fees. 

Bartley said he is required by law to issue this notice of intent to enforce a lien, giving the company 45 days to pay the delinquency, before he is permitted to file a lawsuit.

“Since your company has ignored the many notices that my office has sent you and has failed to bring current (its) tax obligations, I intend to initiate this legal action upon the expiration of the 45 day limit required by KRS 134.504, which time starts now,” Bartley wrote in the notice.

He said the amount delinquent will increase if a lawsuit is filed in the case.

“You should understand that if I am required to file litigation to collect these taxes, substantial additional penalties and costs will be added to the outstanding amounts,” Bartley wrote in the letter. 

He reported that a 13 percent penalty will be added to each certificate of delinquency if a lawsuit is filed, and that penalty would increase the amount owed to Floyd County by $87,135, bringing the total amount owed to around $750,000.

“They have an opportunity to save a bunch of money by paying it within that 45-day period,” Bartley said. 

He balked at the announcement made by the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet this week, when it reported that it had reached a “long-awaited” settlement for delinquent taxes owed by companies controlled by Justice’s families in Harlan, Knott, Magoffin and Pike counties. Bartley opposed the settlement because he said it included “a 100 percent waiver of all interest and penalties” on the delinquent bills the companies owed those counties. Bartley said about $360,000 of the delinquent taxes owed to Floyd County are interest and penalties.

He said he would “never, under any circumstances,” agree to waive 100 percent of all interest and penalties that have already been added to the company’s delinquent tax bills.

“I think it’s not fair, not right, to give huge tax breaks to a West Virginia billionaire while at the same time taxing our people in Floyd County, while at the same time struggling to survive at all governmental levels in Floyd County — fiscal court, libraries, fire departments, senior citizen centers, boards of education,” Bartley said on Tuesday. “We all have to struggle because people like Justice and his companies don’t pay their bills. And then, when the heat comes, what do they do? They want a reduction.”

On Wednesday, Bartley reiterated those comments, saying that local leaders of Floyd County taxing districts, including the county board of education, the fiscal court and other agencies, “strongly stand behind” him in this decision. 

He said he doesn’t care to “work with” Kentucky Fuels on the penalties and interest, but erasing all penalties and interest owed would be “unreasonable.” 

In announcing its settlement, the Finance and Administration Cabinet mentioned potential lawsuits that could have been filed against Justice’s companies.

“I am happy that we were able to bring much needed tax revenue to these counties whose budgets have been tightened because of decreasing coal severance revenues and other expenses,” Finance Cabinet Secretary William M. Landrum III said in the press release. “This settlement means the state and these counties no longer have to spend time, money and other resources on lawsuits that could take many years with no guarantee that the taxes would be paid.”

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