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WVU, WVSU partnership to enhance vaccination education efforts in four West Virginia counties

INSTITUTE, W.Va. — Enhancement of vaccine education and immunization outreach in four West Virginia counties are the two goals for West Virginia State University (WVSU) and West Virginia University (WVU) when their partnership begins in the coming weeks.

Tiffany-Ellis Williams

The partnership came after a grant of nearly $250,000 was awarded to the state’s two land grant universities. The award was presented by the Extension Foundation, in cooperation with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, through an Interagency Agreement with the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address health disparities among rural and other underserved communities across the United States.

The Extension Collaborative on Immunization Teaching & Engagement initiative is a result of the recent announcement from the CDC to provide $9.95 million funding to the USDA-NIFA to support an innovative approach to community education and partnerships to advance adult immunization.

The two extension services will have a strong focus on multi-generational families and other vulnerable populations. Faculty and staff have partnered to create the “Don’t Wait, Vaccinate!” initiative to provide information on immunizations, including education and awareness around the COVID-19 vaccines.

“We target this because we feel like grandparents struggle with getting updated knowledge and resources for their kids,” Tiffany Ellis-Williams, Director of WVSU Economic Development Center told MetroNews.

The team reviewed data from all 55 counties, including areas with greater health disparities and minority populations, and will use the grant funding to focus their education and outreach efforts on four counties: Clay, Kanawha, McDowell and Mercer. WVU will be leading program implementation in McDowell and Mercer counties, while WVSU will lead programming in Clay and Kanawha counties, Ellis-Williams said.

The focus will be on an assessment to who has received a COVID-19 vaccination and then if not, why have they been hesitant to get one. Ellis-Williams said surveys would go out to grandfamilies in those areas, then from the assessment, the extension services would develop a curriculum to educate families on the importance of receiving COVID-19 vaccination.

She said there is also plans for educational workshops and town hall meetings with local health officials to explain the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccinations.

Ellis-Williams is looking forward to the collaborative effort which will last the next two years.

“We feel like we can reach a larger audience with manpower and the funding we’ve received. We want to make sure we are maximizing our efforts,” she said.

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Hoyer explains efforts to attract DataRobot to Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A West Virginia University leader says DataRobot’s decision to open an office in the Mountain State was a team effort to sell the state and what officials want to achieve.

DataRobot announced last week plans to open an office in Morgantown as part of a partnership with West Virginia University and the John Chambers College of Business and Economics. The company focuses on producing artificial intelligence software to automate business tasks, in which its clients include the Kroger Co., PNC Financial Services Group Inc. and the University of Michigan.

James Hoyer, an associate vice president at West Virginia University, said state and institution officials worked together on pitching the university and the state’s economic goals.

“They were looking for a partner,” he said on “MetroNews Talkline” last week. “They were looking for a place where they could, with that partner, make an impact.”

State Auditor J.B. McCuskey, West Virginia University President Gordon Gee and business school executive director of vantage ventures Sarah Biller spoke with DataRobot CEO David Right about possibly opening an office in Morgantown.

Hoyer said DataRobot officials noted the culture of West Virginia has a positive.

“They liked what they saw in the work ethic of the people, the good, down-home people that we have in West Virginia as a place to do business,” he said. “We pitched them the concept I talk about a lot with the president and the governor [Jim Justice], and that’s let’s make West Virginia the center of the universe for solving big, national problems. They bought into that idea.”

DataRobot plans to hire between 30 and 40 people for the new location; Hoyer noted the company already has its first employee: a recent West Virginia University graduate.

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FestivALL kicks off Sunday in Charleston with hybrid schedule of events planned

CHARLESTON, W.Va.Charleston’s FestivALL is back to in-person events, while still holding some virtual, to kick off its 17th year on Sunday.

The city-wide, multi-arts festival in Charleston showcases a mix of music, theater, dance, visual art, and more until June 27. The 2020 event was held all virtual due to COVID-19 and FestivALL Executive Director Maria Belcher said they are still playing it safe with events this year.

“While we have planned to be able to accommodate as many people, we have found alternative venues. A lot of events are happening outdoors this year in order for people to feel safer and comfortable coming out to enjoy in-person theater, dance and music performances,” she told MetroNews flagship 580-WCHS.

Maria Belcher

She said the following year’s event prep takes place as soon as the current year event ends. That forced many artists, performers and producers to be up in the air for 2021 plans due to the fluidity of the pandemic. To follow current COVID-19 guidelines, the annual celebration will offer three types of experiences: in-person, virtual, and combination (meaning that some in-person events will also be recorded to air on the FestivALL YouTube channel.)

“At the beginning of this year, we still weren’t sure what kind of in-person, large-scale concerts would be possible by the time June would be around. What we decided together with our partners was to put together a hybrid experience,” Belcher said.

The festival officially kicks off Sunday with the Carriage Trail Walk with music, art and dance. Paul Thorn, Amythyst Kiah and John Ellison all perform on Mountain Stage on Sunday.

On June 19, the CAMC Run for Your Life takes place in downtown to kick off the day. There is a virtual Juneteenth Celebration from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and then again the evening. On June 19, there is a pre-game concert at Power Park followed by the baseball game. The Charleston Light Opera Guild presents ‘Putting it Together’ at 8 p.m. that night.

On June 20, there is a West Virginia Birthday Celebration Concert at 2 p.m. that is free at the Kanawha State Forest.

A full schedule of events can be found HERE.

FestivALL Summer Art Fair is taking place at Capitol Market every Saturday and all festival long is the “Show Your Pride” window display contest in downtown. The Children’s Art Fair is now taking place at Davis Park.

The events wrap up June 27 with live music and dance on Capitol Street from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and another performance by the Charleston Light Opera Guild at 8 p. m. at the new Susan Runyan Maier Sculpture Garden at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences

“FestivALL is a time to celebrate and to get together with friends and family. Share in the joys of creativity and self-expression and finding new things to enjoy. At the end of this long year and a half, it’s a bright spot that people are looking forward to,” Belcher said.

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Parkersburg boys, Jefferson girls wrap up track season with Class AAA titles

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After rain was a theme for the first two days of the state track and field meet, the usual hot conditions that have often been been associated with the event at University of Charleston Stadium returned throughout the Class AAA portion Saturday.

With it, Parkersburg’s boys team notched its first team title since 2014, while the Jefferson girls left with top honors for the first time since 2009.

“We thought we had a team that could compete for a title last year, but we obviously didn’t get to,” Parkersburg boys coach Rod O’Donnell said. “To win it this year really shows the work these guys put in the offseason and just how focused they were at this event.”

Wheeling Park senior Torrence Walker claimed victories in three events to claim boys high-point honors, and Morgantown sophomore Irene Riggs also took first in a trio of events for girls high-point honors.

Wheeling Park’s Torrence Walker claimed high-point honors. Photo by Greg Carey/

Walker, who posted his first victory Friday in the 400-meter dash at 48.45, notched two more titles on the final day of the season. The Patriots’ speedster set a 100-meter state record in preliminaries at 10.50, and followed it with a 10.59 finish in the finals. That allowed him to edge freshman teammate Jerrae Hawkins, Jr., who was runner-up at 10.75.

“I can’t even describe the feeling,” Walker said. “It’s just a blessing. We’ve been working so hard this season and I’m pumped.“

Walker was also victorious in the 200 with a finish of 21.43 that challenged James Jett’s state record from 1989, when the former Jefferson legend who went on to play in the NFL set it at 21.39.

“It’s an honor to be up there and I’m really humbled to be known as one of those top guys and be in a group with those names,” Walker said.

Like Walker, Riggs also won a Friday event, as the Mohigan standout took the 3,200 meter run at 10:50.51. Complacency didn’t set in Saturday as Riggs won the 1,600 at 4:56.32 and 800 at 2:15.70.

“I’m pleased with the way I performed,” Riggs said. “I tried to do whatever I could to help my team. At states, it all comes down to one day and you don’t ever know how it’s going to go here.”

Morgantown’s Irene Riggs claimed high-point honors. Photo by Greg Carey/

The JHS girls followed a Friday win from Lorelei Bangit in the 400 (57.54) with a pair of first-place relay finishes Saturday that helped the Cougars notch the title with 87 points.

In the 4×100, Jordan Carr joined forces with Trinity Blue, Hailey Dillow and Bangit to finish first at 49.86.

“The relay teams came up big and they did a really good job for us,” Jefferson girls coach John Serian said. “Everybody played their part.”

The Cougars also won the 4×200, with Carr, Dillow, Blue and Arayia Maiben finishing in 1:44.60.

“It’s been a long year and I have some great assistant coaches,” Serian said. “The sprint coach is Dana Clark and she does a heck of a job. I work with the throwers and the throwers came through. This is the first year we’ve really had great throws and it’s a blessing.”

Jefferson’s girls team wrapped up its season by winning the Class AAA team title. Photo by Greg Carey/

Hurricane’s Lily Haught was another multiple event winner. Haught took the 100 hurdles at 14.83 and edged Wheeling Park’s Marlee Porter in the 300 hurdles by the most narrow of margins (44.01 to 44.02).

Porter did manage a victory in the 200 at 25.54 and teamed with Mia Zecca, Maya Taggart and Abby Barki to give the Patriots a win in the 4×400 at 4:08.65.

Brook’s Mara Pendergrast won the high jump at 5-04, while Lincoln County’s Lilli Ross claimed the shot put title at 35-05.75.

Other individual winners included: Capital’s Candace Morris in the 100 meter with a finish of 12.13 that was only 0.04 seconds from tying the state record held by Riverside’s Ciara Chic; Hedgesville’s Skylar Yates in the pole vault (10-01); University’s Sierra Lanham in the long jump at 17-10 and Huntington’s Ravyn Goodson in the discus with a throw of 120-06.

The Parkersburg quartet of Lily Wharton, Claire Tatterson, Kendal Domenick and Addison Gherke won the 4×110 shuttle hurdles at 1:05.68.

Morgantown’s Amelia Summers, Maddie Gump, Jennifer O’Palko and Anna Lester took first in the 4×800 at 9:50.57.

The Mohigans were runner-up to the Cougars with 77 points, while Wheeling Park took third with 74 points.

For the Parkersburg boys, Justin Waybright won both the discus (164-05) and shot put (48-08.50) to aid the charge to the title. The shot put was particularly important to the Big Reds, who also had second and third-place finishes from Charlie Bauman and Casey Mahoney, respectively, to total 24 of their 110 points.

“The throwing events were a big part of our success,” O’Donnell said. “Especially what Justin was able to do, but all three of those guys in the shot put came up big.”

The Big Reds also got a key win from Keegan Barnette in the 800 meter (1:59.34), with teammate Franklin Angelos runner-up in that event. Aaron Kupfner provided PHS with a first-place finish in the 110 hurdles at 14.86.

“It was a total team effort,” O’Donnell said.

After setting a new state record Friday with a 8:52.82 finish in the 3,200, University’s Larry Edwards also took first in the 1,600 at 4:12.02. Edwards’ individual victories were half of the four titles UHS won. The others came from Daminn Cunningham in the long jump at 21-08.75 and the 4×800 relay team of Edwards, Jordan Thomas, Rocco DeVincent and Ryan Blohm, who finished in 8:00.18.

Jefferson won a pair of relays with Caleb Shelton, Justin de Moulin, Keyshawn Robinson and Isaiah Fritts taking first in the 4×200 (1:28.79) and de Moulin, Kyle de Nobel, Justin Gottlieb and Harris Kester claiming the 4×400 (3:32.39).

WPHS got a title without Walker factoring in as the 4×100 team of Alex Canestrato, Sincere Sinclair, Christian Sorge and Hawkins Jr. took first at 43.35.

Musselman’s 4×110 shuttle hurdles team of Cesar Zilleruelo, Ty Hosby, Wyatt Newcome and Jacob Sturba was first at 58.31.

Other individual award winners included: Martinsburg’s Doryn Smith in the high jump at 6-02; Huntington’s Noah Waynick in the 300 hurdles at 40.53 and Washington’s Francisco Amore in the pole vault at 16-00.

Wheeling Park was runner-up to Parkersburg with 81 points, while University (59) and Jefferson (53) finished third and fourth, respectively.

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Justice’s debt, built on trust, is now a billion-dollar personal risk

In 2017, when legendary Virginia banker Worth Carter died at age 79, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice mourned the loss of a longtime, trusted financial partner and spoke at Carter’s funeral.

“We grew together,” Justice said. “I knew I could count on him, and always did.”

The chain of community banks that Worth Carter Founded, Martinsville-based Carter Bank & Trust, had been a key to the growth of Justice’s own business empire. Justice has described a relationship built on trust, inspiring deals that could be sealed with a handshake.

But that funeral marked a turn of events that sent Justice’s businesses deeper and deeper into perilous financial territory. The personal relationship is now a high-stakes and acrimonious parting of the ways.

Gov. Jim Justice

Justice, whose status as West Virginia’s only billionaire was downgraded over the recent troubles, continues his role as the state’s governor. But in the background lurks financial drama that has drawn the attention of the business world.

On the line for the governor is a billion dollars in personal liability.

This month, Justice and his businesses sued Worth Carter’s old community bank chain, seeking to hold it accountable for $421 million in damages. Far from trust, Justice contends new leaders at the bank instituted more and more restrictions, tightening cash flow for the family businesses.

“Carter Bank is no longer a ‘lifetime financial partner,’ as it proclaims and as it had acted prior to Worth Carter’s death but a determined, self-proclaimed adversary,” wrote lawyers for multiple businesses owned by the governor and his family.

Justice acknowledges $368 million of outstanding loans with Carter Bank, millions in debt accompanied by the risk of personal guarantees.

That’s on top of a second, bigger financial crisis. When the relationship with Carter Bank started turning sour, the Justice companies partnered with a different financial suitor. That was Greensill Capital, an international financial services firm that went bankrupt this spring.

“We were just trying to pay Carter Bank off, and lo and behold it’s just almost the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Governor Justice said during a state news briefing this month.

Greensill packaged the loans and sold them to investment funds managed by the financial services company Credit Suisse.

Credit Suisse is now pressing to recover lost investments and has named Justice’s Bluestone Resources as one of three major borrowers from the Greensill funds. That original loan amount was $850 million, and the current debt is $700 million.

Justice acknowledged personally guaranteeing those loans as well. He and his companies have a separate lawsuit against Greensill, contending they were snookered into taking on all that debt.

Together, the lawsuits are a financial nightmare that has developed from what once was rock-solid financial trust.

“You know, Worth Carter died a few years back. He was a great, great man with honor beyond belief and we did a lot, a lot, a lot of business together. I’m sure along the way it was tremendously helpful to the bank. It was tremendously helpful to our businesses. We did exactly what you’re supposed to do,” Justice said.

“We did everything from the standpoint of doing the right stuff with the bank, and Worth Carter was a prince of a man. And since his death, it’s been chaos at the bank.”

Worth Carter

Worth Carter

Worth Carter was widely regarded as a brilliant man, a mathematical genius. He had worked as a cashier at Safeway stores while putting himself through college, went to work as a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and then became an executive at Piedmont Trust Bank in Martinsville, Va.

His drive led him to First National Bank in Rocky Mount in 1974 with eight employees and $1.2 million in assets. He kept on opening branches in rural Virginia and North Carolina until he led 10 community banks with 950 employees and $4.5 billion in assets, all bearing his name Carter Bank & Trust.

Bruce Whitehurst, president and chief executive officer of the Virginia Bankers Association, told the Martinsville Bulletin when Carter died that even though banking had changed dramatically his friend had carried on “in the traditional way” – with customers being able to walk into their local bank branch and have all of their needs handled there.

Loans from Carter Bank kept Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., afloat during hard times, recalled its former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., who spoke along with Justice at Carter’s funeral.

“His willingness to loan to Liberty when the big banks all said no was key to Liberty stabilizing its finances and growing to become one of the most successful and prosperous universities in the nation,” Falwell told American Banker in 2017, a few years prior to his resignation from Liberty.

“Countless businesses would not exist across Virginia and North Carolina but for the genius of Worth Carter in recognizing the solid business plans and the good character of many folks who didn’t fit the mold imposed by big banks.”

Jim Justice met Carter in 2001, with the banker courting a business relationship.

“Governor Justice and Worth Carter met in 2001. As Worth Carter sought to expand his banking businesses, he actively pursued a commercial lending relationship with Governor Justice and his growing agricultural, mining and hospitality operations,” according to the lawsuit by the Justice companies.

The partnership was launched with a single real estate loan of $4.5 million. By the end of 2011, the financial relationship had grown to more than $170 million in 20-year loans to the Justice businesses.

“Sometimes he would tell them the lending was approved and shake hands,” the lawsuit states. “Money would then be advanced and the ‘details’ (lien documentation, loan documentation) would be handled days or weeks later.”

Big moves and unwelcome change

Over the course of the relationship, Justice made a couple of major financial moves.

Justice sold the family’s coal operations, broadly called Bluestone, to the Russian company Mechel in May 2009 for $568 million and then bought the company back in 2015 for $5 million.

And to much acclaim, Justice’s family purchased the iconic Greenbrier Resort out of bankruptcy in 2009. Worth Carter held the first shovel at the end of a line of dignitaries when ground was broken for a new casino at the resort.

In the middle of all that, according to Justice’s lawsuit, Worth Carter approached the Justices about lending even more money so the companies could stay afloat. By the end of 2015, just as Justice was buying back the coal properties, Carter Bank had loaned more than $400 million to the Justice companies in anticipation of a coal industry rebound.

That debt grew to $775 million by 2016.

Justice has said the money was necessary because the properties deteriorated on Mechel’s watch.

“We took over and we’ve been building them back,” Justice said at a briefing this month.

By the time Worth Carter died, the Justice companies had paid that down to $740 million and had transitioned to using Carter Bank as a near-exclusive financing provider.

Transition at the bank coincided with Justice’s first few months in office as West Virginia’s governor.

Justice was inaugurated Jan. 16, 2017, while the state was facing a financial crisis but he gave no hint that his own would even be a possibility.  “I want absolutely nothing, nothing,” he said at his inaugural address. “I don’t want a thing for me or my family in any way. All I want is goodness for this incredible state and its incredible people.”

By the end of that month, Jan. 30, 2017, Justice issued a letter to state employees saying he was pursuing a blind trust for his many businesses, but describing his holdings his as too complicated to move quickly.

There was no mention that personal guarantees might be at odds with a blind trust.

“Being Governor is a full-time responsibility,” Justice wrote. “I want to put all of my assets in a blind trust, however, the process has been slowed down by the multitude of financial institutions that work with my family’s companies.”

And just a few months after that, April 7, 2017, the single most important connection with those financial institutions, Worth Carter, died. His death came a day before the finale of Justice’s first regular legislative session when, as the clock ticked on April 8, the governor dramatically announced a possible state budget deal that turned out to be a mirage.

Following Carter’s death, according to the Justice lawsuit, the relationship with the bank bearing his name deteriorated. New management became more restrictive and accelerated outstanding debt, according to the lawsuit.

“This hostility came despite what was then an over 15-year mutually beneficial relationship during which the Justice Entities had consistently and timely serviced all debt owed to Carter Bank,” the Justice lawsuit states.

Carter Bank describes the same longstanding relationship, but expresses the change in terms of its fiduciary duty.

“Various Justice Entities have been customers of Carter Bank for many years,” Carter Bank wrote in response to the lawsuit.

“Beginning approximately five years ago, Carter Bank began to reduce its credit exposure to the Justice Entities and repeatedly informed the Justice Entities of the bank’s goal of reducing its credit exposure to the Justice Entities.”

The bank’s statement to shareholders continued, alluding to a battle over what the Justices owe.

“Banks have an obligation to their shareholders and the financial system to collect in full all amounts that are due and owing to them. Carter Bank is no different from any other bank in this regard. As with all its customers, Carter Bank expects to be repaid by the Justice Entities all amounts due and owing in full in a timely manner as agreed-upon in the various loan documents existing between the parties.

“Carter Bank believes that it is fully secured on all loans it has outstanding to the Justice Entities. All those loans are also backed by personal guarantees from James C. Justice, II and his wife, Cathy Justice. A number of them are also backed by personal guarantees from James C. Justice, III, Mr. Justice’s son.”

New lender arrives, complications grow

As the relationship with Carter Banks went south, a new lender came on the scene.

Roland Hartley-Urquhart

That was Greensill Financial Services. In contrast to Carter Bank’s homegrown presence, Greensill was an international financial services company based in the United Kingdom, focusing on supply chain financing that links buyers and sellers with the financial institution in the middle.

Greensill’s relationship with Justice started about May 2018. The business was personified by Roland Hartley-Urquhart, vice chairman at Greensill who took credit for inventing modern supply-chain finance.

Jay Justice

He was introduced to the Justice businesses by a mutual acquaintance — never named — and first met in White Sulphur Springs, home of The Greenbrier, with the governor and James Justice III, known as Jay, the chief executive of the coal operations.

From that introduction through this past February, when the relationship burst, Jay Justice spoke on the telephone or in person with Hartley-Urquhart two or three times a week, according to the Justice lawsuit.

Bluestone entered two financing programs offered by Greensill. One, a smaller amount of  $70 million was at the core of Greensill’s business model, the supply-chain financing. Greensill would facilitate quick payments for the coal Bluestone could provide to the buyers on the other side of the arrangement.

The far larger amount, $780 million, was through a far different “receivables purchase program.” That worked by establishing credit against “receivables that have not yet been generated by Bluestone” from “prospective buyers” which included “entities that were not and might not ever become customers of Bluestone.”

So this was based not on Bluestone’s ability to deliver and collect, “but rather based on Bluestone’s long-term business prospects” that might or might not exist. The loans were rolling over as they matured.

Despite that magic financing, Justice’s lawsuit characterized the initial relationship with Roland Hartley-Urquhart and Greensill by using very similar language to how Worth Carter was described. At first, the financial arrangements were “supported by a relationship of mutual trust.”

Personal risk

June 26, 2018, a Tuesday, was an extraordinarily busy and momentous day.

That day Governor Justice called the Legislature into special session to consider impeachment of members of the state Supreme Court. The same day, Justice announced on social media that he was meeting with President Trump, a political ally, to “discuss the ‘Trump-Justice Coal Plan,” which envisioned a federal mandate on coal reserves to protect the power grid in case of catastrophe.

“More WV prosperity on the way!” the governor’s account tweeted. The proposal never came to fruition.

Finally on June 26, with that boost of confidence about coal, the governor and first lady Cathy Justice, along with Jay, executed personal guarantees on the Greensill loans that were fueling their coal business. The Justices say they were under the impression that the loans wouldn’t come due until well into the future, 2023 at the earliest.

Now the Justices say they were misled to enter those personal guarantees, believing they would provide the capital necessary to restructure and restart mining operations.

“Plaintiffs only signed the personal guarantee because of the understanding between the parties that the Enterprise financing was a long-term financing,” according to the Justice lawsuit.

“Had plaintiffs known that the Enterprise Financing was a short-term financing, effectively callable at will, Plaintiffs would never have agreed on signing the personal guarantees.”

That wasn’t the end of the financial adventures, though.

Greensill also entered an agreement in 2019 for the right to an ownership stake up to 10 percent in Bluestone, valued at about $100 million elsewhere in the lawsuit.

And in 2019, aiming to increase capacity and diversify its holdings, Bluestone acquired a coke plant in Birmingham, Ala., as well as the West Virginia metallurgical coal assets of Pinnacle Mining Co.

Of the original $850 million in debt, what remains is $700 million, the amount West Virginia’s governor is now liable for personally.

Now on the hook for it, the governor this month acknowledged conversations with his family about the enormous debt.

“I’ve had to review this with my family. What was going on what the rebuilding of Bluestone. We knew it would take hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild Bluestone,” he said at a briefing.

“We’ll continue to pay our obligations and move forward. But this one is a bad, bad, bad actor that got caught. We didn’t have one earthly clue. It’s terribly unfortunate and something our family will have to deal with.”

Evolving crisis

There were hints that the Greensill arrangement was getting bad, and then it blew up.

In September, 2020, as the covid-19 pandemic continued to dramatically slow the world’s economy, Jay Justice met with Hartley-Urquhart at his home in New York and, according to the lawsuit, received assurances that Greensill would continue to support Bluestone.

“Mr. Hartley-Urquhart promised to not leave plaintiffs ‘holding the bag’ because he believed in the Bluestone business as an asset and believed in the strength of Bluestone’s management,” the lawsuit states.

That changed in November, 2020. As the governor was celebrating a re-election victory in the political world, Greensill began to recognize its own crisis in the financial world. The Justice lawsuit contends the finance company started trying to demand additional fees, moved to secure repayment of already-existing borrowings and demanded accelerated repayment outstanding debt.

On Dec. 1, 2020, a Tuesday when the governor announced positive state revenue figures, another representative of Greensill Capital,  Randolph “Dolph” Habeck met with the Justices in White Sulphur Springs and demanded payment of all obligations by July 2021.

Pressure continued into early 2021.

This past Feb. 9 — the day prior to the governor’s annual State of the State address — the Justices learned for the first time that Greensill Capital was deeply obligated to yet another international financial services company, Credit Suisse, according to the lawsuit.

Hartley-Urquhart “urgently demanded” Bluestone pay off even more debt, this time to funds managed by Credit Suisse.  “JCJ III refused,” the lawsuit states, referring to Jay Justice, “stating that he had no idea of Credit Suisse’s involvement or how any transaction between Bluestone and Greensill Capital implicated Credit Suiss.”

On Feb. 20, a Saturday, Hartley-Urquhart again traveled to White Sulphur Springs to meet with Jay and Jim Justice and demanded Bluestone pay $300 million by the end of the third quarter.

Less than a week later, Feb. 26, Hartley-Urquhart demanded repayment of $850 million by the end of the third quarter.

On March 1, Jay Justice received a phone call again from Hartley-Urquhart. Greensill had collapsed. 

A week later, Greensill filed for bankruptcy, triggering a tsunami of repercussions in the international financial world.

Credit Suisse, which managed investment funds that bought loans bundled by Greensill, is now pressing to recover lost investments and has has named Justice’s Bluestone Resources as one of three major borrowers from the Greensill funds.

The Justice lawsuit says vendors, suppliers, customers, and bonding companies reached out immediately to express serious concern about the impact Greensill Capital’s demise will have on Bluestone’s liquidity and cash flow.

Justice, far from the personal trust he declared for Worth Carter, now describes the companies that loaned his businesses millions of dollars with disdain.

And the governor acts hurt that the multi-million dollar financial deals that used to be sealed with a handshake, with details to follow, are now far more complicated and treacherous.

“The Greensill thing, I keep going back to this. There can’t be a worse actor,” West Virginia’s governor said at a state briefing this month.

“When it really boiled right down to it, we had no clue — no clue in the world. And all of a sudden they walked in out of nowhere and they’re bankrupt in 48 hours. What they’ve done is awful to a lot, a lot, a lot of people. And us having no idea, no idea whatsoever.”

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Appalachian Power honored for winter weather response

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An organization representing electric companies recognized Appalachian Power this week for its power restoration efforts following winter weather earlier this year.

The Edison Electric Institute said Appalachian Power is this year’s recipient of the Emergency Response Award, which recognizes a utility company’s efforts to restore electricity and provide assistance.

Appalachian Power was selected following an international nomination process.

Nearly 140,000 Appalachian Power customers in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia lost electricity services following winter weather in February, in which ice and snow created additional problems for workers. Appalachian Power sent nearly 2,500 workers from several states to areas without power as part of restoration efforts.

“When damaging storms strike our employees are laser focused on getting power restored safely and efficiently, and that certainly was the case following the February ice storms,” said Aaron Walker, Appalachian Power’s vice president of distribution region operations.

“We greatly appreciate our crews and those who came from near and far to assist, we appreciate the kindness and words of support of our customers as we worked, and we appreciate EEI for recognizing our effort.”

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West Virginia must invest more in flood prevention to prevent future disasters, senator says

As the five-year anniversary of a catastrophic West Virginia flood approaches, a state senator from one of the hardest-hit areas is pushing the state to invest more in mitigation efforts to prevent future disasters.

“If all the indications are true about the severity of flood events increasing in frequency and intensity then we have to be better prepared. Right now we’re not,” said Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier.

Floods just hit more West Virginia towns after recent heavy rain.

Stephen Baldwin

Baldwin, who is a longstanding member of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Flooding, sent a recent letter to Gov. Jim Justice and Senate President Craig Blair to urge greater state investment in flood mitigation.

Baldwin pointed toward a budget surplus of millions of dollars the state anticipates at the end of the fiscal year. Governor Justice has estimated that would be about $400 million. However, the governor and legislators just agreed to spend $150 million of that on road maintenance.

“We have an opportunity to do real flood mitigation with available surplus funds right now,” Baldwin wrote in the letter. “You have all supported investing in our dams over the last few years, and that work is just the tip of the iceberg.”

He cited an already-prioritized set of dam and stream projects from the state Conservation Office. That document notes that West Virginia has 170 small-watershed flood control dams and all 170 are classified as being high hazard — meaning a failure could result in the loss of life and property.

The document ranks 25 dam projects by priority, with cost ranging from a little less than $4 million for some projects up to around $20 million for some others. The agency characterizes the projects as “a major infrastructure initiative” that would “provide continued public safety and provide infrastructure jobs in the 11 counties where they are located.”

“The dams on WVCA’s Top 25 list have all exceeded their evaluated design lives, and repairs and updates are needed to ensure each continues to provide flood protection to the residents and businesses living downstream,” the agency wrote.

Baldwin agrees.

“That investment will save lives, save money the next time a flood hits, and save towns,” he wrote.

Gov. Jim Justice

Asked about the possibility of spending additional state funds on mitigation to prevent future flooding, Justice seemed open to the possibility. The governor made reference to $106.5 million in federal flood relief money the state gained the ability to use a couple of years ago. Federal records show only about $16,000 of that has been spent so far.

“From the standpoint of putting more money into mitigation to try to do anything we can to prevent these disasters from happening, I’m all for it,” Justice said.

James Hoyer

James Hoyer, who led West Virginia’s flood relief effort and who now heads the Joint Interagency Task Force, agreed an ongoing effort is necessary.

“Where the opportunities present themselves to add more dollars to mitigation and simple things things that include cleaning out streams that, unfortunately, have a lot of bureaucratic challenges to them are exceptionally important to us going forward in minimizing the tragedy of the things we see during flooding,” Hoyer said.

Baldwin said he wants to continue to spotlight the possibilities of flood prevention.

“Dams protect most of the towns in West Virginia. The impact of this is huge. I think it just sort of gets lost in the shuffle,” he said in a telephone interview.

“And we just think ‘Well, this is West Virginia. We have flood events because of our topography and that’s just the way it is.’ But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything we shouldn’t do about it.”

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2 West Virginians sentenced for Medicaid fraud

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two West Virginians were sentenced this week for separate Medicaid fraud cases.

Judges in Upshur County and Lincoln County sentenced Skybluewater Keys and Robert James Peterson respectively for their actions, in which both agreed to pay full restitution.

Keys, 44, of Buckhannon entered a guilty plea in April related to allegations of attempting to bill Medicaid for performing caregiver services from March 20, 2020 to April 12, 2020 for a family member who had died March 19, 2020. She received a prison sentence of up to 30 years which was suspended under fully paying restitution of $1,973.40. She will be placed on supervised probation for three years. Keys will also have to complete 240 hours of community service.

Peterson, 52 of Yawkey pleaded guilty Tuesday to a single count of felony Medicaid fraud after billing Medicaid for services involving his stepson from 2013 and 2015. Peterson was not caring for the child at the time and did not perform any services.

Peterson received a prison sentence of up to 10 years which was suspended upon his payment of full restitution worth $8,664.60.

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Passenger killed in Lincoln County crash

PINE GROVE, W.Va. — A passenger in a pickup truck died in a crash Friday evening in Lincoln County.

Authorities said the passenger was thrown from the truck that crashed on U.S. Route 119 near Pine Grove at about 5 p.m.

The driver of the truck was injured and is hospitalized.

Investigators said the driver may have hydroplaned.

The names of those involved were not immediately released.

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Beckley VA reaches settlement with former Yates patients

BECKLEY, W.Va. — The Beckley VA Medical Center has reached a settlement with patients who say a former doctor sexually abused them.

Stephen New, an attorney representing multiple former hospital clients, confirmed to MetroNws 62 former patients of former doctor Jonathan Yates will each receive $180,000. The settlement totals around $10.5 million.

WVVA-TV first reported the story about the settlement.

Yates, of Bluefield, Virginia began working at the facility in April 2018. Investigators launched a criminal investigation in September 2019 following multiple veterans accusing Yates of sexual abuse.

Yates admitted to rubbing the genitals of two veterans and digitally penetrating a third veteran’s rectum without any legitimate medical purpose. All three veterans were seeking care for managing chronic pain.

Yates pleaded guilty to three felony counts of deprivation of rights under color of law. He was sentenced in January to 25 years in prison and three years of supervised release.

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