Stand firm

County Attorney Keith Bartley, right, talks about a tax delinquency owed by Kentucky Fuel Corporation during a fiscal court meeting last week.

Floyd County Fiscal Court members praised County Attorney Keith Bartley last week for taking steps to file a lawsuit to collect delinquent taxes owed by Kentucky Fuel, a company that’s affiliated with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice. 

Bartley filed a notice of the county’s intent to enforce a lien against Kentucky Fuel Corporation for a tax delinquency of $670,300 — some of which has been pending since 2013. 

The state settled delinquent tax payments the company owes in other Eastern Kentucky counties this month, but Floyd County was not included. Bartley balked at that settlement, saying it cut interest and penalties out of the total amount owed by businesses affiliated with Justice. About $360,000 of the delinquency in Floyd County stems from interest and penalties owed by the company, Bartley reported this month. He said he would be willing to negotiate with Kentucky Fuel regarding some of the interest and penalties, but not all of it. He reiterated that stance at the fiscal court meeting. 

“For whatever reason, Floyd County was left out of the negotiations at the state level. The state and, I believe, three or four counties, all entered into an agreement with the Justice companies that included them waiving 100 percent of all interest and penalties in order to get paid, essentially, money that they’ve been due for years,” Bartley said. “Some may fault me for it. Some may pat me on the back, but once that information came to me and that proposal was made to me after the fact, I said, ‘No way. Not going to do it. I wouldn’t do it for anybody else in this world, you know, that can clearly afford their bills.” 

He said he doesn’t know why a “West Virginia billionaire” like Justice “shouldn’t pay his share” of taxes.

“So, we’ve given them the 45-day notice, and we’ve got that on our calendar,” Bartley said. “If they want to make payment arrangements in the next 45 days, I’m willing to listen, and if they don’t, I know how to find the courthouse.”

Judge-Executive Robbie Williams agreed with Bartley. “I appreciate your efforts on that,” he said. “I mean, I’m like you. If he can afford to fly around the world in a Learjet, he can pay his taxes to Floyd County.”

Bartley noted that Justice’s lawyers have said the governor does not personally owe the debt because his companies owe it and that Kentucky Fuel is no longer in business and does not own anything in Floyd County.

Bartley said that’s not “technically true,” noting the company does own a couple of pieces of property and “there are means of collecting.”

“Stand firm. That’s what we like,” Williams told him. 

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