By Chad Nesbitt
Skyland – In an exclusive, the Leader has learned that the Skyland Fire Department is under federal investigation.
In a statement by Skyland Board President Scott Hart obtained by the Leader, Hart said, “On behalf of the board of the Skyland fire department we wish to share some information with you. On March 13th, 2019, the Skyland Fire Department received several Federal subpoenas from the Asheville division of the US attorney’s office for the Western District of North Carolina requesting documents and information involving matters occurring over the last several years. In addition, we received a federal spoliation letter that directs everyone in the department to not alter, destroy or harm in any way, any information, documents or items that may be a part of the federal government’s investigation.
“Our department is going to work diligently with the US attorney’s office and the law enforcement agencies involved and will cooperate, work hard to respond to this and any other requests and be transparent in every communication, action and events surrounding the investigation. We asked everyone to be patient and courteous to our guests that may visit our properties in the near future as it relates to this investigation and to assist them in every way possible.
“We cannot give exact details as to the content of the subpoenas or the spoliation letter. Our employees are a hard-working professional group of men and women that come to work everyday to help keep this community safe. We will continue to work hard while this investigation is being completed.
“As uncomfortable and difficult as this may be, we are asking all members of the department to please make a conscious effort not to fuel any miss information or rumors and conduct ourselves with the highest degree of professionalism.
“We thank all the members of the department for all their hard work and dedication to the Skyland Fire Department.”
Just before last year’s revelation about Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene and the scandal involving finances, the Leader broke the story that the Skyland Fire Department did not have enough funds to make payroll even after receiving $6 million a year and tax money.
Wanda Greene gave a total of $1 million to the Skyland Fire Department without the Buncombe County Commissioners knowledge according to Brownie Newman chairman of the Buncombe County Commissioners.
A Skyland Fire Department employee, Mark Dillingham, also wrote a check which he said was a loan from the Riceville Fire Department for $150,000 to the Skyland Fire Department. At the time, Dillingham was president of the Riceville Fire Department Board. Board members of the Riceville Fire Department said they had no knowledge of the check being written. The money was eventually repaid to the Riceville Fire Department.
Former Skyland Fire Department chief Dennis Presley told the Leader he “needed the money to make payroll.” Other employees of the Skyland Fire Department told the Leader that the Department’s credit cards were maxed out and credit was cut off at a local auto parts store.
Since the first report from the Leader, the Skyland Fire Department has a new board. The board hired former Buncombe County district attorney Ron Moore and well-known attorney David Wijwickarama and while the statement was not signed at the bottom of the letter, Moore and Wijwickarama names accompanied Hart’s (see statement below). Board members say the two attorneys have audited the past financial dealings of the Skyland Fire Department and in the wake of their findings a federal investigation has commenced.
Fire department bookkeepers Lisa and Katie Pressley, wife and daughter of longtime former Skyland Fire Chief Dennis Pressley, are no longer with the department. Katie also kept the books for other Buncombe County Fire Departments. Both resigned within the last three months. This is an ongoing story.