Jon Creighton, former assistant county manager and planning director for Buncombe County, has admitted guilt to one count of conspiracy in a plea deal entered on Oct. 25.
The guilty plea could lead to a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and at most three years of supervised release.
The count includes the charge that Creighton solicited and accepted trips and gifts from a contractor in exchange for favorable consideration on county contracts. Though unnamed in the court documents, Buncombe County has identified the contractor in question as Joseph Wiseman Jr. The count also includes the charge that Creighton obtained reimbursements from the county for what he claimed were expenses incurred as part of business trips and that he did not use annual leave time on these trips, allowing him to sell that time back to the county.
As part of the plea agreement, Creighton agrees to provide information and relevant documentation to prosecutors and testify in any trial, hearing or grand jury proceeding, including any involving his co-defendants.
Creighton is one of three former county employees federal prosecutors have accused of accepting gifts and lavish vacations from Wiseman in exchange for contracts.
The other two are former county managers Wanda Greene, who served as the county’s head administrator from 1997 through 2017, and Mandy Stone, who served from 2017 to 2018.
Greene and Creighton had the authority to award county contracts, according to a statement of fact submitted with the plea agreement.
In an effort to ensure the county continued to “unwittingly” fund these vacations after her retirement, prosecutors allege that Greene transferred $45,000 to the “Professional Services” account in Creighton’s department. On June 9, 2017, the statement of fact says Greene informed Creighton by email she had transferred the funds, but Creighton did not end up using the money.
Court documents say Creighton received more than $40,000 in gifts as a result of the schemes.
Creighton’s plea hearing will take place at 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the United States Courthouse at 100 Otis St. in downtown Asheville.