In July 2019, former Buncombe County Commissioner Ellen Frost was charged with 11 federal crimes related to her misappropriation of roughly $575,000 in county funds in 2015 and 2016. Without obtaining board approval, Frost partnered with former County Manager Wanda Greene to spend taxpayer money on sponsorships of three equestrian enterprises in the name of the Asheville Regional Airport.
The ordinance drew over an hour of public comment, with the majority of speakers in favor of the law.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Oct. 6 to award $15,000 toward the construction of an agricultural education facility at Enka High School. But as Chair Brownie Newman noted, recommendations to support such projects are normally made by Buncombe’s School Capital Fund Commission or Board of Education and funded through the regular budget cycle.
According to a factual basis document filed on July 30 with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Ellen Frost will likely admit to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program fraud, for which the maximum prison term is five years. Frost’s court date is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 17.
How did Xpress readers process all the local news and changes this year? Here’s a look at the topics that generated the most commentaries, letters to the editor and online comments in Xpress in 2019.
Speaking at a Dec. 17 meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, attorney Ron Payne said that Stanley had been accused in a sworn deposition by former Assistant County Manager Jon Creighton of improperly accepting unspecified “things of value” from former county contractor Joseph Wiseman Jr.
After former Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones finished her questions about an allegedly improper $20,000 allocation of county money to build an animal barn at Charles D. Owen High School, her colleague Ellen Frost messaged then-County Manager Wanda Greene: “Like you said earlier, silence is a beautiful sound.”
Potentially without review by other county staff members or commissioners, former County Manager Wanda Greene cut Stacey Woody’s pay by nearly $16,000 after Woody questioned an allegedly illegal $125,000 invoice for sponsorship of the Tryon International Equestrian Center. The relevant section of Buncombe’s personnel ordinance still stands, giving the same power to current County Manager Avril Pinder.
Calling former County Manager Wanda Greene’s activities a “tragic waste on a personal level” with “horrific consequences for the county of Buncombe,” U.S. District Judge Robert Conrad sentenced her to 7 years in federal prison and ordered her to pay a $100,000 fine. Co-conspirators Michael Greene, Mandy Stone, Jon Creighton and Joseph Wiseman, Jr., all received active prison time, a year of supervised release and a financial penalty.
“Ellen Frost doesn’t deserve that tacky cartoon by Randy Molton in the July 31 issue [Xpress].”
At the heart of the case against Ellen Frost, who was first elected to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in 2012 and served through 2018, are roughly $575,000 in county funds that she and former County Manager Wanda Greene allegedly funneled to support “various equestrian enterprises in North Carolina and Florida.”
Amanda Edwards’ first day in the hot seat should be fairly chill.
A Facebook Live forum hosted by Blue Ridge Public Radio and the Mountain Xpress on Wednesday, Oct. 17, offered District 2 candidates Glenda Weinert and Amanda Edwards an opportunity to address issues like affordable housing, opioid abuse, and the omnipresent criminal investigation into former county officials.
During a debate organized by the Council of Independent Business Owners on Oct. 5, candidates vying for seats on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners talked school safety, affordable housing and how the county should respond to the fallout from the Wanda Greene investigation.
County department heads pointed to an organizational culture of cliques and anxiety at a meeting with Buncombe County commissioners on Sept. 4.
The Weaverville session was the first of three that Buncombe County will host to cover each of the board’s three election districts. District 2 Commissioners Mike Fryar and Ellen Frost were in the hot seat on Thursday evening.
“It’s time someone asked whether we get our money’s worth from these corporate handouts.”
After criticizing a list of proposals circulated by three county commissioners last week, Sheriff Van Duncan worked to find common ground at the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting on April 10.