Buncombe County is one step closer to recouping the money it claims was misappropriated by former County Manager Wanda Greene and her son, Michael Greene, who served as a county employee until August 2017.
County commissioners approved a more than $2 million settlement from Guardian Life Insurance Co. during a special meeting on July 17. Greene allegedly purchased whole-life insurance policies from Guardian for herself, her son, and eight other county employees using about $2.3 million of county funds. An annuity was purchased for an additional employee.
Board Chair Brownie Newman says Buncombe County did not file a lawsuit against the company and its brokers as it did against Wanda and Michael Greene. But because the company sold the policies to Wanda Greene, the county reached a negotiated settlement through its attorney, Ron Payne.
“Mr. Payne has been talking with them to discuss what procedure could be used to return those funds to the county and to educate them about the fact that these policies were never approved as is legally required,” Newman told Xpress, “and so they’ve been discussing the matter for several months.”
The exact settlement offered by the company is $2,081,686.37. The Board of Commissioners said in early June that two policies worth $143,000 are still outstanding in Michael Greene’s name. Payne said the company is paying the county for those policies, but as part of the settlement, if the county does receive the policies from Michael Greene, the county agreed to surrender those to the insurance company without any further payment. Newman says the county will also make it clear that the county doesn’t have any other claims against the insurance company or any of its agents or brokers.
The total amount the insurance company received from Buncombe County at Wanda Greene’s direction was $2,310,000.
“I wholeheartedly endorse this because it is a good settlement,” Payne told commissioners on July 17. “The net difference being $228,313.63 is less than what Ms. Greene paid for her own policy. It is about half. I think the insurance company and its broker have done the right thing.” Payne said Greene paid $458,000 for her policies. According to an indictment released June 5, Greene cashed in two whole-life policies issued in her name shortly after retiring June 30, 2017, obtaining about $396,000.
The settlement from the insurance company doesn’t, however, mark the end of the county’s civil lawsuit against the Greenes.
“We see this as an important and very positive step forward in the county recouping a large percentage of the taxpayer funds that were misappropriated and illegally appropriated by Wanda and Michael Greene,” Newman says, “but we’re very determined to continue to recoup everything else that was misappropriated by the former county manager. Our civil suit to achieve that will continue.”
Newman says the county is also seeking to recoup money from the alleged misuse of county funds through purchase cards, illegitimate vacation days and retention bonuses that were not legally permissible.
Answers submitted by State Employees’ Credit Union in response to a June 25 summons to garnish Wanda Greene’s five accounts on deposit there reveal that the value of those accounts was $119,806.84.
In early June, according to court documents, FBI Special Agent Andrew Romagnuolo requested a warrant to seize $29,479.47 held in one of Greene’s SECU accounts. Romagnuolo said in an affidavit that the $396,000 Greene received by cashing out her life insurance policies was deposited in the account in late July.
According to the affidavit, about $155,000 was transferred from the account to a Tennessee law firm in early August 2017, and about $100,000 was transferred in mid-August 2017 to another SECU account held by Greene and ultimately provided to Michael Greene and another individual who is not named in the affidavit. According to court filings, the $155,000 wired on Aug. 7, which was sent to the Tennessee law firm’s account at F&M bank in Clarksville, Tenn., was wired for the purposes of a real estate transaction.