Buncombe County commissioners are weighing whether a ‘forensic audit’ of county spending is needed following the latest indictment of former county manager Wanda Greene. Greene, and former assistant county managers Jon Creighton and Mandy Stone, all pleaded not guilty this week to charges they accepted all-expense paid trips and other gifts from a consultant who worked for businesses that had contracts with Buncombe County. It was the third time Greene was indicted this year by federal prosecutors for fraud and conspiracy. County commissioners have faced increasing criticism for not knowing in their oversight role about Greene's alleged misdeeds, some of which stretch back a decade according to prosecutors.
Speaking to a Leadership Asheville Forum luncheon Wednesday, county board of commissioners chair Brownie Newman offered his support for a forensic audit. "Personally, I believe the county should undertake it's own forensic audit once the criminal investigation process is complete," Newman said. "This is necessary I believe to ensure there is accountability for any misuse of taxpayer funds that while perhaps not resulting in criminal charges would still be problematic from a county standpoint." Forensic audits are generally conducted to examine specific items instead of taking a broader look at an institution's overall spending. County commissioners discussed the idea of a forsenic audit at their meeting this week but took no action on the matter.
Newman's comments at the forum regarding the misuse of taxpayer funds that did not result in criminal charges echoes something the county did last November before Greene was indicted but after she retired. The county released documents that showed she misrepresented how much she spent on payments to the Tryon Equestrian Center when speaking to the Asheville Citizen-Times for a story. The paper published a story regarding the payments, which were used to advertise the Asheville Regional Airport at a Florida equestrian festival. The center handled the advertising for the county, and Greene's comments to the paper under-represented how much was spent by hundreds of thousands of dollars. None of the charges filed this year against Greene mentioned those particular payments.
In April, Wanda Greene and her son Michael were indicted on charges they misused Buncombe County-owned credit cards for thousands of dollars of personal purchases over a 10-year period. Michael Greene pleaded guilty to one charge in that case in July. Then in June, Wanda Greene was indicted for a second time, and accused of fraudulenty purchasing life insurance policies for several high-level county managers with taxpayer money. Prosecutors allege she then cashed out one of those policies after she retired to pay for a real estate purchase in Tennessee. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges filed against her.