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Some Buncombe County commissioners question who got raises

As Buncombe County finalizes a budget for the next fiscal year, some commissioners have questions concerning last year's budget, specifically over employee raises. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

As Buncombe County finalizes a budget for the next fiscal year, some commissioners have questions concerning last year's budget, specifically over employee raises.

Every county employee was supposed to get a 2 percent raise, and the budget also stated, "The County Manager retains discretion in dispersing the remaining 1.5 percent."

Commissioners Mike Fryar and Ellen Frost said the 1.5 percent was intended for the county's lowest paid employees. Fryar wants to know if that's how it was spent.

"It ought to be easy to answer. You ought to be able to figure out. I give this one that, real simple," Republican commissioner Mike Fryar said.

Fryar feels county manager Wanda Greene, who recently announced her retirement, hasn't been clear about how she doled out the raises.

On May 17, News 13 sent an open records request for "a list of employees who received a 1.5 percent raise last year along with their salary." That request came two weeks before Greene announced her retirement on May 30, 2017.

"I thought about it for a couple years, and I thought it would be a couple years from now, and I always have to go through the budget. So, why now is you can't retire until the budget's done," Greene told News 13 in an interview on May 30.

During that May interview, News 13 didn't ask Greene about the raises because crews didn't have the information. Greene sent a list two days later without names, or dates, and the majority of the document included recommended raises. It's not clear if those recommended raises were ever actually given.

"We need to know where it's at. Is it over here in an account? Or has it been used for something else? Where's it at? That's all I asked," Fryar said.

Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara said she wants clarity on what happened. For weeks, County Commission Vice Chair Ellen Frost has been asking for answers. On May 23, Frost emailed Greene and said, "Just as a follow up, please send the employees who did receive the additional 1.5 raise that Commissioners pledged last year to lowest paid employees."

News 13 asked Commission Chair Brownie Newman for his take.

"I haven't seen anything that raises that concern. I think the questions that commissioners are asking around allocations to our employees in our current year are good questions," Newman said.

Newman said he trusts Greene when she says all employees were given the 2 percent increase promised in the budget. As for the additional raises, Greene has not agreed to an interview with News 13 to clarify how she spent the money.

Greene's last day as county manager is July 1.

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