Longtime former County Mgr. Wanda Lu Greene and cohorts allegedly piled up many personal perks such as while on supposed business trips. “For the entire 20 years she was county manager, Democrats controlled the County Commission,” Summey said. “We feel that, obviously, the Democrats have failed the taxpayers. Had Republicans been in office, we’d have felt the same way about them.” He suggests “let’s put the other party in charge.”
Angry Buncombe Taxpayers (ABT) is the political action committee (PAC) that ordered the signs, selling and distributing them to those interested. Summey is its treasurer, and said he consults with the (PAC’s) other board members about the sign messages..
Summey said ABT members are “not a bunch of soreheads, wanting to trash somebody. This is a legit deal, based on FBI indictments. Business owners and individuals are angry, and fed up; we have county employees who have been stealing and embezzling right under the nose of the County Commission we’ve had. For the entire 20 years Wanda Lu Greene was county manager, the Democrats controlled the County Commission.”
Looking ahead, Summey foresees “pressure from all of this corruption will force commissioners to put controls into position, to prevent this corruption from happening in the future. If we get more Republicans in there, we should get some meaningful reform. But if the Democrats continue to run the commission, we don’t feel they will feel the same level of pressure to prevent this. The investigation is still ongoing. Their primary interest may be that nothing more comes out, to tarnish the party any more than it has.”
The PAC’s website states “with the investigation ongoing, we still don’t know if it reaches any of the past or present county commissioners. We do know it has reached the pockets of every taxpayer in the county.” The signs “call attention to and protest this theft and corruption.”
Summey added that if the GOP gained a commission majority but did not clean up oversight, then next election “we’ll throw them out.” Three commissioner seats are on the ballot Nov. 6. Democrat Al Whitesides is unopposed in Asheville’s central District 1.
The other two seats are open, vacated by a member of each party. “If the GOP wins both of those seats, they’ll have four and a majority” on the seven-member board, Summey noted.
Candidates are Republicans Glenda Peters Weinert of Alexander in District 2 and former NASCAR driver Robert Pressley of Asheville in District 3, and Democrats Amanda Edwards of Weaverville in D2 and Donna Ensley of Arden in D3.
Summey made the “drain” signs in two sizes. One is 18 by 36 inches, with a suggested donation of $10. Already, 450 of the first batch of 500 of those signs have been sold. All 50 of the larger four-by-eight foot signs are “spoken for,” and have a $50 suggested donation to the PAC, Summey said. But he said the PAC ordered a second batch of similar-sized signs from him.
The donations to ABT are to “further educate the public about this corruption,” its website states.
The signs stand out with a bright yellow background, and blue and black lettering. The message and size of lettering is proportionate to sign size, with as much wording as on a billboard, Summey said.
Summey, 73, a noted real estate investor in this area for 45 years, has been best known to many for his billboards. He was in that business in 1967-1997. He said that early on, “I patented the single-pole construction you see all over the country.” He noted he has not ever run for public office.
Rather than rattling over Democrats’ wasteful spending, his signs instead focus on insufficient financial oversight. He is furious that a mostly-Democrat Buncombe County Board of Commissioners missed the boat on a major financial scandal.
Greene is facing embezzlement, wire fraud and money laundering charges, amidst a probe the FBI revealed last year it had launched. U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose released a statement a year ago confirming there is a federal investigation involving Greene and others.
A clue as to how much was detected as embezzled is that Buncombe County has reportedly initiated a lawsuit to try to collect $950,000 from Greene. Greene and former county assistant managers Jon Creighton and Mandy Stone are reportedly facing bribery and kickback charges, as they are indicted for allegedly taking expensive trips paid by local contractor Joseph Wiseman, Jr.
That hints of “pay to play” influence. Wiseman reportedly got over $15 million in county contracts such as for landfill disposal, and as of this summer was still the engineer for several county projects.
Greene was also indicted on using public money to buy life insurance for herself and some co-workers, and implicated in using county credit cards to make personal purchases.
Further, indictments alleged that $30,000 overtime bonuses each went to Greene, Stone, Creighton and former board clerk Kathy Hughes. Summey said it is astonishing and ironic that Greene in county meetings explained much of that OT as from dealing with Republican commissioner Mike Fryar’s budgetary inquiries.
“We’ve heard ‘weren’t there also some Republicans on the commission, while all of this went on?’ Yes there were,” Summey said. “But commissioner Fryar saw things that didn’t look right. He asked about it.”
Greene served as county manager for 20 of her 23 years working for the county, and retired in June of 2017. Her spending perks apparently slid through on quick-approved consent agendas, and amidst an absence of enough line items in budgets that commissioners reviewed.
Buncombe County Attorney Michael Frue told of workshops to try to prevent such scandals, in a press release. It included: “These sessions focused on ways to improve transparency and accountability around budget development and management…”
The signs note they are paid for by Angry Taxpayers, and have the disclaimer they are “not authorized by any candidate.” Summey was adamant about that, in his Tribune interview. “This has nothing to do with the Republican Party. We formed Angry Buncombe Taxpayers, as an independent expenditure PAC. It is independent from any candidate or party. As such, there is no limit to the amount of contributions that an individual or business can make to such a PAC. We can’t donate to a party, or coordinate with candidates.”
Summey has written five books on real estate. His latest is The Financial Security Bible: How to Build Wealth and be Happy. He also penned The Weekend Millionaire’s Secrets to Investing in Real Estate.
Summey has lived in Asheville for 55 years, since 1963. He grew up in the coal mining town of War, W.V. with rocket enthusiast Homer Hickam. Hickam’s youth was chronicled in the film “October Sky” (1999) set in 1957. Hickam devised and launched rockets in his hometown, and would become a NASA engineer.
Many people’s take on politics is it does not take a rocket scientist to realize improvements that are needed.
People can purchase the signs at the following businesses in Buncombe County: Peterson Amusement Center, Bayshore Property Management, DeBruhl’s Used Cars, George’s Mini Market Exxon, Happy Hill Restaurant and Kangaroo Convenience Store all in Asheville; Gudger’s Florist in West Asheville, Witt Motor Sales in Candler, McKinney Insurance Agency in Arden, Fastlane Auto Sales in Weaverville, and D&D Grocery in Barnardsville.
For their addresses and info on the PAC, check angrybuncombetaxpayers.com. To order a sign, email to firstname.lastname@example.org.