Former WNC Nature Center Manager James Patrick Lance has been charged with obtaining property by false pretenses for use of funds intended for the center. Asheville police arrested Lance on Friday, May 25. Lance left employment with the city of Asheville in February to accept another position in Henderson County.
Asheville City Council member Robin Cape told Xpress the city’s investigation was focussed on expenditures involving the new red wolf habitat at the facility. Lance allegedly made unauthorized purchases totaling $7,278.73 using a credit card supplied by the Friends of the Western North Carolina Nature Center, a nonprofit that raises money for the center. Monthly bills for the credit card were paid from an account funded by state grants. The investigation was prompted when the Friends group uncovered questionable charges during a routine financial audit.
“The city of Asheville takes questions about the administration of public funds extremely seriously,” said City Manager Gary Jackson. “We have been cooperating with the Asheville Police Department and the State Bureau of Investigation to ensure this matter is fully investigated.” The city is completing its own financial audit of the Nature Center through its external auditor. The audit was launched when the city became aware of the questionable charges and the report is expected to be finalized in the coming week.
Lance was booked into the Buncombe County Detention Center under a $15,000 secured bond.
— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer