County corruption settlements top $3M; Greene pleads guilty

QUIET EXIT: Following her plea hearing, former County Manager Wanda Greene and her attorneys, Noell Tin and Thomas Amburgey, leave the federal courthouse on Jan. 16 through a side door. Photo by David Floyd

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners has accepted a $189,000 settlement from former Assistant County Manager Jon Creighton, who pled guilty in October for his part in a kickback scheme involving himself and two other former managers.

This brings the total amount the county has recouped through civil actions to more than $3 million.

“This would, as best I can determine, make the county whole for the matters that we could recover in a lawsuit against Mr. Creighton,” Ron Payne, the outside attorney handling the county’s civil lawsuits, told commissioners during the board’s regular meeting on Jan. 15.

Board Chair Brownie Newman says this settlement reimburses the county for personal trips, allegedly paid for by contractor Joseph Wiseman Jr., that were financed by taxpayers under the guise of county business, as well as illegitimate bonuses and unused annual leave that Creighton sold back to the county in lieu of using vacation time for personal trips.

Although he is unnamed in an August indictment, the county has identified Wiseman as the contractor that allegedly provided lavish vacations in exchange for favorable consideration on county contracts to Creighton and former county managers Mandy Stone and Wanda Greene.

In a court filing in late December, Wiseman’s attorney, Christopher Lewis, wrote that Wiseman and Environmental Infrastructure Consulting deny the allegations against Wiseman in the August indictment and the county’s civil lawsuit.

The settlement results in a limited release for Creighton, meaning the county remains free to pursue further litigation against him if other misdeeds are discovered.

Payne said the county could expect to receive the money from Creighton by the end of the month. Commissioners are still waiting to receive a $750,000 settlement from Greene, which they approved in December. “[Greene] is prohibited from entering into a financial transaction of $10,000 or more unless approved by her probation officer,” Payne said. “Her attorney has told me that he has initiated that process, and hopefully we’re going to get an answer on that perhaps as early as this week.”

On the morning after commissioners accepted Creighton’s settlement, Greene appeared in the federal courthouse at 100 Otis St. to plead guilty to federal charges after reaching an agreement with prosecutors.

Flanked by her attorneys, Noell Tin and Thomas Amburgey, Greene entered a guilty plea to two counts of federal program fraud, one count of receiving bribes and kickbacks and one count of making and subscribing a false tax return. Magistrate Judge Carleton Metcalf accepted Greene’s plea agreement but denied a request to modify the conditions of Greene’s pre-sentencing release to allow her to talk to Irene Wolfe and Peggy Hughes, both of whom are Greene’s sisters and work for Buncombe County. Metcalf said it would not be appropriate to allow her to communicate with her sisters at this time.

He also added another condition to her release stipulating that Greene may not serve in a fiduciary role or have access funds belonging to another entity.

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About David Floyd
David Floyd is the Buncombe County reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press. Email him at dfloyd@mountainx.com.

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9 thoughts on “County corruption settlements top $3M; Greene pleads guilty

  1. Robin

    This is absolutely ridiculous. So the message that is being sent is that it’s OK to steal from taxpayers as long as you agree to pay some back when you get caught.

    If these three corrupt individuals escape jail time, all 250,000+ people in Buncombe County should file a lawsuit against the judge, and all of the County Commissioners. This is a breach of trust on a monumental scale, and they are all being allowed to bargain their way out of it because they are the “politically elite”.

    I can’t wait to vote in the next commissioner’s race. Brownie Newman carries some responsibility for this, as he stood by and asked nothing. All he cared about was that the County (and City) went “green” so his private ventures would remain profitable. Mike Fryar was the only commissioner, to my knowledge, to inquire about Wanda’s dealings, and she labeled him a troublemaker and asked for raise to deal with him, but he screwed his standing up by his enamored slobbering all over replacing Wanda with Mandy Stone (now also an admitted crook). So, throw them all out.

    • Lulz

      Troublemaker or troll, it’s one in the same. There’s 2 sets of laws at play. One for the corrupt in government and one for the peons. She won’t serve jail because that means that her fellow theives still in power might be at risk of having the light shined on them.

      Government doesn’t serve the taxpayer anymore. It serves the connected and “wins” elections by stringing along the “poor” with threats of starvation. Current system needs to be broken up and rebuilt.

    • SpareChange

      Robin — Just a point of clarification. Note that the article makes it clear that these settlements are only on the “civil” charges against Greene and her cadre of crooks. Civil cases are money cases – intended to recoup funds illegally obtained and spent. The “criminal” charges against Greene are federal, and the criminal cases have not yet been heard (they have been waiting for the civil cases to conclude). I am not sure what the up to date list of federal / criminal charges is, but as of a June 11 C-T article, these are the criminal charges and potential penalties she is facing. (Note: Should she get off of all the criminal charges without any jail time I’ll be handing out the pitchforks and torches right along side of you, but until then it’s a bit premature).

      — Wire fraud: Fifty counts in April indictment; 12 counts in June indictment. Each carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.
      — Federal program fraud/embezzlement: Five embezzlement counts in April indictment, eight federal program fraud counts in June indictment. Each carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.
      — Conspiracy: One count in April indictment. Carries a maximum five-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.
      — Money laundering: Three counts in June indictment. Each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

  2. Lillian Warren

    Oh please.. Most of the ruling class are as crooked as a mountain road and just as dangerous.
    Lying politicians are the norm. Look at how long Medford got away with it.
    Get real speak up or shut up.
    I paid a high price for reporting abuse to Feds.. But it was worth it to see Mandy Stone and Wanda Greene get their just desserts

    • Lulz

      If anything, this should be a lesson to the communist who call themselves democrats. And their dimwitted minions who think the government will make things equal and fair. If they can’t see that absolute power corrupts and to have a government machine full of Wanda Greens will bring them nothing but misery and death, then they deserve their fate. To usurp freedoms and rights from people and give it to the government is simply and utterly going to do nothing but bring about their own destruction. And no one will be able to stop it. They won’t vote it out as elections will be nothing more than shows as the outcomes will already be determined. No one in power will ever give it up willingly.

      • MGS

        And to think, the voters of this county voted in (nearly if not) all Democrats in the last election! So, do you think anyone is really concerned about the continued political shenanigans and favoritism still going on in this not-so-right county? NO!!! And this is only the beginning!

  3. Perri Morrison Smith

    Maybe the time for the pitchforks and torches will be after the next reassessment on property, and the probability of another property tax hike. How will the “refund” of stolen money benefit the very taxpayers it was stolen from? How about no tax hikes for the next few years?!

  4. The producers of public access media at URTV, Western North Carolina Community Media Center were silenced in a conspiracy to cover-up the corruption in Asheville and Buncombe County. At a Commissioners meeting on June 7, 2011, the Commissioners and Wanda Greene, violated the P.E.G. contract with the State by withholding funds to force the closure and in conspiracy with the City, denied any public access funds for our First Amendment Platform. Denied freedom of speech and our right to hold our government accountable for our grievances. Their actions deliberately harmed the people that they were elected to serve, mentally, emotionally, and financially. I am glad to see the investigations are still ongoing. Let all the corruption be exposed. Give the people a platform to communicate on for open transparency in the government. Return to the people a public access community media center that rivals what they lost due to the greed and corruption of past elected officials.

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