Hot Sheet: Former Buncombe manager Greene serving prison time in halfway house; shuttered Walton Street pool could get historic landmark designation; the return of Big J's Bubba-Q;
Also, Citizen Vinyl launches new podcast with a familiar voice as its producer
This story sponsored by Citizens Fuel Co., a family-owned Asheville company.
Happy Super Bowl weekend, y’all. I hope you’ve got something fun lined up, regardless of the big sports ball event.
You’re reading the latest free version of the Ashevegas Hot Sheet, the email newsletter focused on what’s happening here in our beautiful mountain metropolis, Asheville, N.C. Please consider signing up for a paid subscription, where you’ll get even more local intel about Asheville growth and development, food and drink, as well as the occasional celebrity sighting. For example, get up to date on the new Montford Tavern in the works and the closure of the downtown Hot Spot as a paid subscriber.
Your financial support is crucial. Thank you!
Now here’s more of what’s going around:
Wanda Greene, the former Buncombe County manager who pleaded guilty to federal fraud and corruption charges in 2019, is currently in a Raleigh halfway house, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons' inmate locator. Greene was sentenced to 7 years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud and corruption charges that included embezzling millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. A handful of Greene’s Buncombe County government colleagues also pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and were sentenced to prison, though Greene is the only one that remains in prison.
Greene was initially sent to Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, because she suffered from serious health issues. She was later shuttled to a federal transfer center in Oklahoma and then to a McDowell County detention center in advance of a trial appearance that never happened. Now she’s being held at a federal Bureau of Prison’s facility known as a “residential reentry management field office.” RRM Raleigh is one of 22 such facilities that help inmates make the transition from prison back to civilian life.
Here’s a run-down of the status of Green’s Buncombe County government cronies that were caught up in the scandal:
Mandy Stone, who oversaw the county’s Department of Social Services for decades, was appointed county manager to replace Greene. Then Stone was hit with federal fraud charges connected to the Greene scandal. She was released last month (Jan. 14) after serving her nearly 3-year sentence.
Ellen Frost, a former Buncombe County commissioner, pleaded guilty to misusing taxpayer money and was released from prison this past December after serving a 6-month sentence.
Michael Greene, who held a job in Buncombe County government while his mother worked as his overall boss as county manager, pleaded guilty to fraud charges connected to his mother’s scheme. He served a six-month sentence and was released from prison in April 2020.
Jon Creighton, former assistant county manager under Wanda Greene, started his 18-month sentence in October 2019 but was sent home in April 2020, a furlough that may have been triggered by concerns over the Covid-19.
Joseph Wiseman, a Georgia engineer and contractor who did work for Buncombe County, was also caught up in this corruption scheme. He pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison, reported to the hoosegow in November 2019, and was released last summer.
Asheville preservationists are seeking a "local historic landmark" designation for the now-closed Walton Street Pool. The segregation-era facility built in 1938 to serve Black residents officially closed in 2021 after years of under-investment, followed by a concerted neighborhood effort to have the city of Asheville fix the community gathering spot. The pool and community center carry immense historical significance, despite the neglect by city officialdom.
The local historic landmark designation is accomplished by ordinance through Asheville's Historic Resources Commission. Josi Ward, a preservation consultant and vice president of the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County, has made application for Walton Street Pool. Other examples of structures with that designation: The Flat Iron Building, the YMI Cultural Center and the Asheville City Hall building.
Big J’s Bubba-Q on Sweeten Creek Road in Arden reopened late last year to the joy of the barbecue joint’s many fans. I’ve heard that William “Bubba” Johnson’s fried chicken is crispy delicious, and that his barbecue and sides like yams and mac ‘n cheese will make your taste buds sing. (Johnson, a Fletcher native, opened Circle B Ranch BBQ in a gas station across from the Asheville Regional Airport and built a fanbase there.) After scanning the Big J’s Bubba-Q page on Facebook, I tried to call in an order, but the phone number didn’t work. So I made the drive down on Saturday afternoon (the FB page said the business was open) only to find an empty parking lot and a couple of other hungry visitors knocking on the door. If anyone has a good phone number for Big J’s, and their hours, I’d love to give ‘em a try.
Tastee Diner on Haywood Road will close this weekend as owners Kate and Adam Bannasch pass the ownership torch to Steven Goff, an Asheville chef who most recently worked as executive chef at Jargon restaurant in West Asheville.
Huey Magoo's Chicken Tenders is planning to open a drive-through restaurant at 291 Long Shoals Road. This is a Florida-based chain.
The first episode of Citizen Vinyl's new podcast, "Mezzanine," is posted. It is produced by Cass Herrington, formerly of Blue Ridge Public Radio. Her first interview is with Asheville musician Mike Martinez. Check it out.
Moog Music has launched a new documentary video series, "Giants," featuring the artists, innovators, inventors and musicians who pioneered electronic music. The first episode features Herb Deutsch, the co-inventor of the original Moog modular system.
"Rage rooms" are trendy these days, and word on the street is that one is in the works for Asheville. Rage rooms are designated areas for folks to smash all kinds of household goods, cars, etc., as they work out their pandemic-era frustrations.
Thanks for reading,