Less than a week away from election day, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole continues to pound his Democratic opponent, Jim Justice, on the issue of business debt.

In a media release sent out this week, the Cole campaign reported that Justice “refused to pay $771,268.38 for the ‘remediation and restoration’ work done on his properties” in the wake of this summer’s tragic flooding that took 15 lives and caused millions of dollars in property damage in Greenbrier County alone.

Cole’s release claimed that Justice “stiffed his vendors” and is using the money saved thereby to finance his campaign.

BMS-Cat Inc., a Texas corporation, recorded mechanic’s liens against several Justice-controlled businesses on Oct. 11 in connection with that flood-related work at the Village Inn ($41,860.13) and the Old White Inn ($23,190.04), both of which are in White Sulphur Springs, and at The Greenbrier resort ($706,218.21), which is just outside the White Sulphur city limits.

The same company also recorded a mechanic’s lien against The Greenbrier Sporting Club Development Company Inc. in the amount of $113,126.39 for restoration and remediation of the Snead Golf Course at the Sporting Club.

But, according to an email sent to the resort’s chief operating officer, Elmer Coppoolse, on Nov. 1 by the CEO of the insurance company that is working on flood recovery at The Greenbrier, BMS-Cat’s invoices remain unpaid, not because Justice or his companies “refused” to settle up, but because of a “payment mistake” that arose from an insurance mixup.

“I understand that The Greenbrier believed BMS-Cat’s bill would be paid directly by the insurance carriers and, therefore, The Greenbrier did not put the unpaid bills into your Accounts Payable system, resulting in the bills not having been paid on a timely basis,” Gregory R. Riehle, president and CEO of Resort Hotel Association, wrote to Coppoolse in the email, which was provided to The Register-Herald by the Justice campaign.

“I can confirm that remediation services, like those of BMS-Cat, are covered in the insurance claim related to the June 23 flood,” Riehle’s letter continued. “An additional payment related to the claim is in process now, and BMS-Cat will be paid out of these proceeds.”

Riehle added, “Speaking generally, it is not uncommon for payment mistakes and disputes to result in liens being filed against property owners as a precaution.”

Grant Herring, communications director for the Justice campaign, took direct aim at the Cole camp in a response to this latest salvo in an ongoing war of words.

“Finally, a mistake in their stunt shows that Bill Cole’s campaign has been lying to mislead the voters for personal gain,” Herring said. “That’s what politicians do.”

The Cole campaign also took Justice to task for employing a Texas company to restore his resort following the flood when he was urging other West Virginia businesses to hire local workers.

“It is clear that Billionaire Jim Justice puts his political priorities above West Virginia and his obligations because Jim Justice doesn’t believe that laws or rules apply to him,” commented Cole spokesman Kent Gates. “He now seems to think that he can create one set of rules for others that he doesn’t need to follow for himself, and that’s the worst kind of politician.”

— Email: talvey@register-herald.com

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