Saturday, 23 March 2019

Reality Check: Is what Buncombe Commissioners said about life insurance policies true?

New records obtained by News 13 indicate a statement made by Buncombe County Commissioners is not correct. The records, obtained through a public records request, are emails about the whole life insurance policies Wanda Greene is accused of illegally buying with taxpayers’ money.

“None of these county employees had any knowledge or access to information that would have informed them that these policies were not approved nor of the actual cost involved,” commissioners said in a statement the night the life insurance indictment came out.

The emails News 13 received put the statement that the life insurance recipients did not know the cost of their policies in doubt.

On Aug, 4, 2015, Buncombe County Commissioners approved a budget amendment for a wrongful imprisonment settlement. The U.S. government accuses former county manager Wanda Greene of illegally using some of that money to fund whole life insurance policies, and one annuity, for herself, her son and several other county employees.

“Just waiting for signal we are a go. Then want to set up individual meetings,” Greene emailed an insurance agent during the commissioners meeting, according to the indictment.

Greene followed up with Cauble a few weeks later.

“I will send an updated list of the amounts for everyone. They do not know the amount, so you’ll need to tell them how much we plan to invest on their behalf,” Greene emailed Cauble on Aug. 28, according to the indictment.

Emails News 13 obtained show some recipients began meeting with Cauble almost immediately.

“I am scheduled to meet with you tomorrow at 10,” then assistant county manager Mandy Stone emailed Cauble on Aug. 31, 2015.

“Mandy, we really enjoyed meeting you last week,” Cauble emailed Stone on Sept. 4, 2015.

Then finance director Tim Flora also met with Cauble early on.

“Thanks much for taking the time to walk me through the plan,” Flora emailed Cauble on Sept. 8, 2015.

“Bo just let me know if you have questions prior to our meeting,” Permits and Inspections director Matt Stone emailed Cauble on Aug. 25, 2015.

“I hope we showed you how this benefit works for you,” Cauble emailed Stone on Sept. 8, 2015.

Records show they planned to meet again in March 2016.

Greg Isreal, former General Services director, confirmed a meeting with Cauble in February 2016.

“Thanks again for lunch,” budget director Diane Price emailed Cauble in August 2016.

She told News 13 she borrowed against the cash value of one her policies in June 2016.

“We’ve fully funded and finalized your benefit plan,” Cauble emailed former assistant county manager Jon Creighton in March 2016.

They discussed meeting, but it’s unclear if they did.

The only emails Buncombe County released from Creighton are in an email chain, from months earlier, that Creighton forwarded to himself on Aug. 10, 2016.

“I think that it is true that when Wanda initially presented the idea to the other staff about procuring this special life insurance that they did not know that, but they all later did get more information about it when they received their policies.” commission chairman Brownie Newman said.

Here’s what the indictment says about when the recipients received more information:

“On October 16, 2015, GREENE began distributing copies of the life insurance policies individually to the selected employees. For most of them, this was the first time that they learned of the face amounts of the policies as well as the premiums that the county would be paying and prepaying for their policies.”

The indictment also says Greene told the recipients to keep their policies a secret, and Newman says they did. He said senior stuff certainly should have came forward.

“This should have raised a huge flag with them, and they should have notified the county commissioners and none of them did, not any of them ever did that. That’s a real problem. So, yeah, we take that very seriously, and, in that regard, I don’t think they handled it in the correct way as county staff at all,” said Newman.

Flora met more than once with Cauble. He also got more than meetings. Before meeting in April 2016, Cauble called himself a “resource” and told Flora ways he could increase the cash value of his whole life insurance policy.

“Let’s get the process started with moving my 401K contributions (currently $300/paycheck or $7,800/annually) into my insurance policy,” Flora emailed Cauble on April 15, 2016.

They confirmed another meeting for May and discussed meeting in April 2017.

The purchase orders for the $2.3 million on these life insurance policies include Flora’s signature.

“The county manager selectively advised some employees an incorrect cost of the policies that was less than $15,000 total,” said a statement from the after the indictment came out.

It was written by a few senior employees, including Mandy Stone.

Newman says Stone was the commissioners’ main source of information on the life insurance policies. A grand jury recently indicted her on more than two dozen charges.

“Her credibility is certainly damaged, and the representations she made to the commission about not knowing all this information, I couldn’t vouch for that,” Newman said.

The county’s statement said employees in the budget and finance departments were aware of the costs of the policies, which is different from what the commissioners said. They said no one knew.

“Do you still feel like that’s an accurate statement,” News 13’s Aaron Adelson asked Newman.

“I don’t think that’s fully correct, because I think the county staff did come to learn more about it,” Newman said. “The statement’s not completely correct, or at least doesn’t tell the whole story.”

Many have blamed commissioners for what has come out about the county government. We asked Newman what they should have known. Watch his response below.


Here’s how the indictment breaks down the money spent on the life insurance policies:

Employee Face Value Premium Prepayments

Wanda Greene $700,000 $236,00

Wanda Greene $700,000 $222,000

Michael Greene $419,000 $101,000

Jon Creighton $522,000 $215,000

Pat Freeman $580,000 $150,000

Tim Flora $671,000 $201,000

Michael Frue $557,000 $150,000

Greg Isreal $538,000 $150,000

Diane Price $745,000 $307,000

Diane Price $338,000 $40,000

Mandy Stone $617,000 $160,000

Matt Stone $587,000 $202,000

The county also spent $150,000 for an annuity for Emergency Services director Jerry Vehaun.

Buncombe County did not release any emails between county attorney Michael Frue, Identification Bureau director Pat Freeman and Vehaun.

“A search was done for those names, and no emails were found,” Buncombe County spokesperson Kassi Day said.

Buncombe County also did not release any emails between Cauble and Wanda Greene and Michael Greene. News 13 cited Wanda Greene’s emails quoted in the indictment and asked what else has been left out.

“Emails that do not meet the definition of public record under 132-1 or are not considered a public record under the North Carolina General Statutes, for example personnel records,” Day said.


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