Former Buncombe County manager made about $500,000 in 2017

Buncombe County leaders are making changes in the way they pay bonuses and other incentives to employees. The changes come on the heels of an investigation into former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene and others. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Buncombe County leaders are making changes in the way they pay bonuses and other incentives to employees.

The changes come on the heels of a federal investigation into former Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene and others.

Greene received $508,080.69 from Buncombe County in 2017. She retired July 1. She worked half the year and earned half her salary. That equals $123.555.06. Upon retiring, Greene elected to receive half her annual salary in a lump sum. That meant she received another $123,555.06. She received $7,413.00 for county longevity pay. She also received $67,763.99 for leave payout, and She received $185,893.28 from a retention bonus.

County management said the bonus program began in 2016 after Greene said it would keep people from retiring early. Ten others, mostly upper management, received the bonuses, which were all six figures.

The bonus was equivalent to a year's salary. It was supposed to be paid out over three years.

Greene was supposed to receive the bonus for agreeing to stay through 2017. Even though she didn't, she received the full bonus.

The county's HR department said it does not have a signed copy of Greene's agreement. Lisa Eby began as HR Director in August.

Current county manager Mandy Stone is one of the people who received the retention bonus. The county started an early retirement program in 2014.

Stone tried to explain Greene's rationale for the bonus. Stone said Greene thought too many people were retiring early, so she asked for the bonuses as an incentive to keep upper management in place until a successor could be groomed.

This week, county commissioners ended the early retirement program.

In June, we asked who got raises in Buncombe County in 2016. County Commission chairman Brownie Newman said Thursday Greene used money meant to give raises to the county's lowest paid employees to fund raises for some of the county's highest paid workers.

“I think what stands out to me is the inequity of system. We have great people that work in Buncombe County, extraordinary people, but some of those bonuses were more than most people make in Buncombe County in a year,” commissioner Ellen Frost said.

Buncombe County officials released the information Thursday in a meeting with several media outlets. This week, commissioners also changed the county's definition of "salary" to include bonuses.

“The former county manager provided inaccurate information to both the media and the commission regarding the complete compensation of some of the public employees,” Newman said.

Tuesday evening, county commissioners were also reading through and learning about the pile of paperwork the county provided.

“I think we were as dumbfounded as anybody else was of what actually has been going on,” commissioner Robert Pressley said.

“There’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered. Obviously, some of those were answered as we start to get a more complete profile of how the personnel ordinance was being used,” commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara said.

County staff said retention bonuses and some of the other benefits Greene and others received were approved by former Commission Chairman David Gantt and only him.

News 13 left a voice message for Gantt Thursday evening.

NOTE: In the news clip from the 6 p.m. broadcast, News 13 incorrectly combined the lump sum retirement benefit with the retention bonus.

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