The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed it has launched a probe into former Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene, a story Xpress broke on Aug. 16.
On Aug. 17, Xpress sent an open records request to County Attorney Michael Frue, who directed us to Department of Justice contact Lia Bantavani, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Later that day, U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose released the following statement:
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office confirms that there is a federal investigation involving Ms. Wanda Green and others. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has requested that the county place a litigation hold on all county materials pertaining to this matter. Consequently, in that a law enforcement matter is implicated, FOIA rules and regulations prevent public disclosure at this time.”
As for more details about the investigation, Bantavani told Xpress: “We have to protect the integrity of the investigation so we will not be making more statements to the press.”
Xpress first broke the news that it appeared Greene was under investigation after investigating tips from anonymous sources.
In reaching out to the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, we were told by email: “The FBI’s [spokesperson] is handling media calls about the Wanda Greene case,” suggesting that a case had indeed been opened.
Xpress called a number believed to be Greene’s to ask for comment. After asking “May I please speak with Wanda,” the woman answering asked who was calling. After identifying as “Dan with Mountain Xpress,” the person replied, “No,” and hung up.
Commission Chair Brownie Newman told Xpress: “The staff attorney for the county, has asked that media questions be referred to him. I cannot comment.”
Buncombe County has issued an official statement, via its attorney, about the investigation:
Buncombe County operations and services to the community are continuing as usual and without delay.
· This investigation has not affected nor do we anticipate it having any effect on the operations of County government and services to our community.
· Since the appointment of Mandy Stone, the Board of Commissioners has from day one, been working in close partnership with the County Manager, and have already held two additional board working sessions which were open to the public (July 11 2017 and July 25, 2107). These sessions focused on ways to improve transparency and accountability around budget development and management as well as information on economic development and policy and our debt service. They also discussed ways to better interface with the public providing platforms for the public to give input and feedback. Central to each of these working sessions were the review of public facing dashboards under development so the public would have information readily available around these topic areas. These dashboards should go live in the near future. Another work session is scheduled for September 26, 2017.
Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams told Xpress, “Sorry, I cannot comment. Thank you.”
Greene announced her retirement on May 30, stating her last day would be on June 30. Greene was employed by the county for 23 years and served as county manager for 20 years.
Xpress will continue to update the story as more details are available.