State treasurer will go after retirement benefits if there are convictions in Buncombe Co.

    Six Buncombe County employees have retired since the investigation into former manager Wanda Greene began. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

    Despite facing federal charges, several former Buncombe County employees will still receive retirement benefits, if they're not convicted of federal crimes. That's when the state’s treasurer says he’ll step in.

    Right now, the state treasurer’s office has handed Buncombe County leaders another bill for pension spikes, which is a result of increases to many of these employees’ salaries before they retired.

    The bill is marked for Sept. 1, and the state's asking the county for an additional $30,954.23, bringing the total the county's owed the state since 2015 for pension spikes to more than $1.25 million.

    With former Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene facing three federal indictments, and new indictments for retired former Manager Mandy Stone and former Planning Director Jon Creighton, News 13 has been asked if those three are eligible for state pension benefits.

    Employees share in the cost for the benefit, paying in 6 percent of their compensation, and, despite what happens with the criminal case, they're owed what they've paid in.

    If an employee or former employee is convicted on the charges, the state, under the felony forfeiture law, can ask for what it has contributed back.

    “Public servants who put their left hand on the Bible and raise their right hand to uphold the constitution and the laws of our state and this community should not be getting pension credit for the time that they were convicted of committing crimes,” state Treasurer Dale Folwell said.

    Folwell said his office has recently had to implement this law more than he'd like, but he said he'll do it again, if needed.

    There are still unanswered questions surrounding Michael Greene's recent plea and whether the state could ask for some money to be returned in his case and whether that will wait until after his sentencing.

    News 13 reached out to Buncombe County, which said the following, "The North Carolina Local Government Employees Retirement System pension plan is administered by the office of the NC State Treasurer. All questions regarding these pensions should be forwarded to them. I am attaching a copy of the Retirement Forfeiture Statute. Determination of Michael Greene’s pension qualifications or amount would also be done by the same system."

    .County employees are eligible to participate in the state benefits program if they work a total of 1,000 hours in a calendar year and aren't considered temporary or interim employees, according to the treasurer’s office.

    There are differing rules, depending on when an employee is vested in system. That information can be found below.

    This is from the member’s handbook for local governmental employees’ retirement system -- “Forfeiting Eligibility for Criminal Offenses: Elected government officials who were not vested on July 1, 2007, will forfeit their right to a monthly benefit from LGERS if convicted of certain state or federal offenses related to their service as an elected official. Elected officials who were vested on July 1, 2007, are not entitled to creditable service accrued in LGERS after July 1, 2007, if convicted of certain state and federal offenses related to their service as an elected official. If you were not vested as of December 1, 2012, and are convicted of a state or federal felony directly related to your employment while in service under LGERS, you are prohibited from receiving any retirement benefit other than a return of your contributions plus interest. If you were vested as of December 1, 2012, you are prohibited from receiving any retirement benefit for service rendered after December 1, 2012, other than a return of your contributions plus interest for the period of service after December 1, 2012.”

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