How Buncombe County will spend money recovered from federal investigation


    A federal investigation accuses former county manager Wanda Greene of illegally spending $2.3 million on whole life insurance policies and one annuity. The county recently recouped most of that money in a settlement with the insurance company. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

    Buncombe County recently cashed a check for more than $2 million that came from an insurance company. A federal investigation accuses former county manager Wanda Greene of illegally spending $2.3 million on whole life insurance policies and one annuity. The county recently recouped most of that money in a settlement with the insurance company.

    The bulk of the money will go to the school system. Commissioners approved a budget amendment to send $1.8 million to Buncombe County Schools and Asheville City Schools. Commissioners previously approved spending that money, and now most of the settlement will finance that decision. The money is for state mandated increases for teacher pay and benefits.

    That still leaves $225,000. The county's budget director said the remaining money would cover "unanticipated" retirement expenses. A county spokesperson said this portion of the settlement money will go toward what the county owes the state, which could include pensions. News 13 is working to learn what the specific "unanticipated" retirement expenses are.

    Meanwhile, News 13 looked into Buncombe County's retirement expenses and found the North Carolina Department of Treasury has billed the county more than $800,000 this year for pension spiking. A pension spiking state law only applies to public employees who make six figures. The state describes a pension spike as a substantial increase in compensation close to a person's retirement. This creates a liability for the retirement system. Instead of asking all state employers to fund the increase, the state sends a bill to the specific employer.

    The Department of Treasury billed Buncombe County $130,841.22 for a retirement effective July 1, $472,690.28 for a retirement effective July 1 and $30,954.23 for a retirement effective Sept. 1.

    The state will not reveal the identities of the retirees who triggered the pension spiking invoices, but July 1 is the date former county manager Mandy Stone's retirement became effective and Sept. 1 is the date former budget director Diane Price's retirement became effective. They were also two of the life insurance policy recipients.

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