As Buncombe County residents learn more about the payroll "irregularities" former County Manager Wanda Greene appears to have used to enrich herself, it becomes clearer that corruption - rather than incompetence - is the reason.
Indeed, incompetence is one of the least believable charges one could level at Greene.
Commissioner Ellen Frost - a self-described "close, personal friend" of Greene's - says the former manager's skill has made it difficult to ascertain how much may have been misappropriated. More on this in a moment.
From John Boyle at the Asheville Citizen-Times:
In fact, it looks like commissioners, with the exception of Mike Fryar, who's been a real burr under Greene's saddle for years, essentially served as a giant Wanda Greene rubber stamp.
Hey, I get it — Greene could be intimidating, she was the financial expert and, with decades of experience, she wielded extraordinary power within the county.
What is abundantly clear is that the Board of Buncombe County Commissioners has failed in its primary responsibility - overseeing county management.
This failure is so egregious, it, too, raises questions of collusion, rather than incompetence.
And no commissioner has done more to run interference for Greene than Ellen Frost (D).
One year ago, the paper ran a very lengthy article accusing Commissioner Mike Fryar (R) of pestering Greene and county staff. The allegations came from Greene. Frost sided with her "close personal friend."
A recent dispute involved how much time commissioners spend with staff. Democratic Commissioner Ellen Frost told the Citizen-Times in August that Republican Commissioner Mike Fryar was taking up too much staff time, and his behavior necessitated the raise. That pay increase came in the form of 300 hours of compensatory time that could be exchanged for $34,000 cash at the end of her employment.
I call this the "Mike Fryar Frustration Compensation Fund"
The public outcry over the inappropriateness of this $34,000 "raise" was so great, Greene returned it.
In addition, the Citizen-Times examined records from Greene's mobile and office phones. These records show Fryar's phone time was average among the seven commissioners, but Frost spent more time on the phone with Greene than all other commissioners combined and doubled.
Frost spoke with Greene by phone 857 times during the 536-day period. Frost and Greene said they are close personal friends.
Greene said Frost gets the same information other commissioners get.
This raises some serious questions about how complicit Frost has been in handing out taxpayer funds to the highest paid staffers in county government.
Not only did she defend the Mike Fryar Frustration Compensation Fund, but she attacked Fryar for his approach to governing:
She said Fryar could be unfit for his position.
"It’s almost a question of not knowing where the lines are and not knowing what the role of a commissioner is," she said.
Yet, now that Greene is confirmed to be under federal investigation for these kinds of shady arrangements, Frost is singing a different tune.
Frost said employees were fearful of speaking up during Greene's tenure.
When I posted one of Bowman's stories about the bonuses on my Facebook page, Commissioner Ellen Frost, noted that Greene "has a Ph.D. in forensic accounting," and "any questioning by staff was met with retaliation and commission members were severely criticized for questioning anything. It is (a) disgraceful miscarriage of taxpayer dollars."
Further, Frost said: "The system for accounting was deliberately confusing and that is why it took this length of time to accurately report the truth. The climate was one of fear and isolation."
When did Commissioner Frost learn of this culture of intimidation and retaliation Greene had created in county government?
How could such a culture develop over twenty years, and Frost had no idea it existed?
How could she not know it existed when she spoke on the phone with her "close, personal friend" twice as much as all other commissioners combined?
How close and personal is her friendship with Greene?
Does she feel she owes Commissioner Fryar an apology for her attacks on him last year?
Either Frost knew of the culture Greene had created, and allowed it to persist - costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Or she was completely blind to it.
Either way, she is obviously unable to provide any type of oversight of county government.