A Georgia-based engineer connected to a kickback scheme in Asheville has Catawba County connections, according to a Jan. 18 article from reporter Jennifer Bowman at the Asheville Citizen Times.
Joe Wiseman, owner of limited liability company Environmental Infrastructure Consulting (EIC), was paid nearly $290,000 through 11 contracts by Catawba County starting in mid-2015, the article states. The Citizen Times obtained that information through a public records request.
“In Catawba, EIC was tasked with design services at a county landfill, evaluations of potential projects and financial analysis of solid waste funds,” the article reads.
Records also show Wiseman did work in Catawba County while employed by CDM Smith in 2012, a Boston-based firm, and with Petra Engineering, according to the article. The CDM contract contained Wiseman’s signature and was worth $115,000.
In Buncombe County, EIC was awarded $2.5 million in county contracts over a four-year period. Wiseman has not been charged with any crimes as of Jan. 21, but three former Buncombe County managers have pleaded guilty to corruption charges, according to the article.
“A federal grand jury indictment handed up in August (2018) accused Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene and her assistant managers Mandy Stone and Jon Creighton of taking vacations, meals, wine, game tickets and other gifts from Wiseman in exchange for contracts,” the article reads.
The Citizen Times reached out to Catawba County Manager Mick Berry and Board of Commissioners Chairman Randy Isenhower last week and received no response.
Catawba County Attorney Debra Bechtel told The Citizen Times that “‘the county has no active contracts with Wiseman,’ but declined to say whether or not the county has found any improper relationships between any officials and Wiseman.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also declined to comment.
Wiseman, who is from Roswell, Ga., donated $1,000 to Kitty Barnes’ county commissioner campaign in 2008, and Christie Wiseman, who lives at Joe Wiseman’s same address, donated $1,000 in 2012 to Barbara Beatty’s campaign, according to the article.
Barnes and Beatty currently serve on the board, with Beatty serving as vice chair.
The Citizen Times obtained that data from campaign finance record reports.
The Hickory Daily Record reached out to Bechtel, Isenhower, Beatty and Barnes on Jan. 21 about the Citizen Times’ piece.
Barnes and Isenhower responded Monday before 5 p.m.
Barnes said she was aware there was going to be an article but was not aware of what it was about. After learning what the article said, Barnes said she had no comment on the article.
When asked about Wiseman’s donation to her campaign, Barnes said: “2008 was a long time ago, I don’t have any recollection, quite honestly.”
She also said Wiseman is not her friend and she did not have and does not have any sort of relationship with him.
During the interview, Barnes also could not recall the work EIC or Wiseman did for Catawba County. She also said she was unaware of any kickback schemes in Buncombe County.
Isenhower was also unaware of any kickback schemes involving Wiseman, that is until he read The Citizen Times piece.
“Yeah, I think I did see it …,” he said. “I didn’t read all of it.”
As for the contracts, Isenhower does remember the county having contracts with businesses Wiseman was involved with but does not recall seeing those contracts.
“A lot of those contracts we don’t see because they fall under a certain threshold,” Isenhower said. He believes that threshold is for contracts under $75,000.
As of Jan. 21, Isenhower said he has not been contacted by the SBI, FBI or U.S. Attorney’s office regarding Wiseman and is not aware of any investigation taking place involving Catawba County.