News 13 Investigates: Buncombe County unable to account for over $10,000 in purchases
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) —
A News 13 investigation has uncovered tens of thousands of dollars in purchases Buncombe County can't account for.
Buncombe County is currently reviewing its purchasing policy as a result.
After making open record requests from the county manager's office, News 13 immediately came across purchases that raised a red flag, including multiple iPads at retail stores. When asked about the iPad purchases, the county said those purchases were made outside of normal procedures.
The receipts are from county credit cards belonging to two of former assistants to county manager Wanda Greene. Among the receipts between January 2014 and June 2017, were three iPad pros, one MacBook Pro, and two iPads, along with various cases and charges bought at Best Buy and the Apple Store.
The total for taxpayers was over $7,600.
News 13 asked the county who the devices were purchased for and where those devices are now. The county's attorney, Michael Frue, said they were purchased outside normal procedures and they can't provide a definitive answer.
Another item News 13 noticed on the Best Buy receipt for the MacBook Pro is also an Elite Plus membership number for someone named Michael. The device was actually purchased on another county employee’s county procurement card.
The county said the MacBook Pro was purchased for Michael Greene, Wanda's son and the county's then business intelligence manager. The county said the Elite Plus membership is not a county account. The county couldn't further explain the purchase.
Michael Greene resigned from his position with the county August 17, 2017.
News 13 also questioned items purchased at Sharper Image on Buncombe County credit cards for a Flex Core 8 Strength and Cardio system, a white noise machine, warming backrest, and other items. The total amount for those purchases for taxpayers was $1,251.86. The county said, again, those items were also purchased outside normal procedures and they have, “no specific record of the listed items” or how they were used by the county.
The same response was provided by the county for $1,136.88 charged to a county procurement or credit card for Touch of Class, a home furnishings retailer. When asked if paintings, wall hangings, and accent tables purchased in January 2017 were in the county's possession, or why there was no tax charged, county officials couldn't tell the station, answering our questions with a simple “Unknown."
News 13 also asked if the county knew of the whereabouts of purchases for $642.87 in art pieces bought at Art.com and if they were displayed in county building. Again, Buncombe County responded, "Unknown.”
News 13 also asked is the county currently possesses two sets of Acoustic noise cancelling headphones purchased on a Bose receipt dated 8/31/2015 for $299.95 a piece. The county's response, "No, not to the best of our knowledge."
News 13 reached out to Wanda Greene’s attorney to see if they could explain any of the purchases. The station is still waiting on their response.
County leaders were asked if they are working to identify the items or get taxpayers reimbursed for purchases outside normal procedures. The county manager has been instructed by the board to continue efforts to recover public funds as legally permissible, but they're still awaiting the outcome of the federal investigation currently surrounding purchases made by former county manager Wanda Greene.