Asheville Daily Planet
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Greene probe unearths new revelations
Tuesday, 02 January 2018 11:53

From Staff Reports

Local news media, led by the Asheville Citizen-Times, continued in December to probe into reasons why former Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene may be under federal investigation.

County Attorney Michael Frue has already instructed those commissioners with knowledge about the matter to refrain from divulging any details. State law protects the release of information that could lead to obstruction of ongoing investigations and potential prosecutions.

 Meanwhile, the AC-T has added to its list of unfulfilled requests a Nov. 15 inquiry about life insurance payments to Greene. 

Investigative reporters had previously been denied information about gift cards, but subsequent court records indicated Greene had spent $42,000 of public funds on gift cards one employee described as “laying around.”

Other suspicious payments included $900 spent on home décor and $9,800 on a personal Verizon account.

 An inquiry into more than $577,000 spent controversially on behalf of economic development at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Polk County has uncovered a $100,000 discrepancy and allegations that documents turned over to the press had been “doctored.”

 What’s more, the AC-T has raised questions about nepotism and pay raises at the county. This has led to policy changes, including new rules requiring all county salaries to be posted online. Bonuses are now capped at $1,000 each and require a public presentation. Since being appointed as the new county manager, Mandy Stone has presented the commissioners with a stream of changes designed to — as Commissioner Al Whitesides put it — bring the county into the 21st century.

 Recently, Stone, announced to the commissioners she would be making good on a promise to the lowest-paid members of county staff. The commissioners had previously agreed to give them a 1.5-percent pay raise, but the payroll funds went to other employees. 

Stone found the money to make the adjustment, including reimbursement, by giving herself and her department a pay cut and consolidating management elsewhere in the county.

During her presentation, Stone said she was not going to ask the commissioners for a vote, because she believed they believed they had already app roved the raises.

 Legal advisors have informed the AC-T that the county cannot withhold financial records even if they are part of a criminal investigation.

Frue, who was on vacation until Jan. 2, has informed the newspaper he will respond to that statement when he returns to his office as the commissioners’ attorney.

 Commissioners Chairman Brownie Newman said the board is cooperating with federal authorities who have asked them not to release information about the ongoing criminal investigation. Doing so, he has pointed out, would itself be a crime.

Newman noted that he regrets that the commissioners, which he said are making herculean efforts to restore public trust with greater transparency, are torn between a rock and a hard place.



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