Local Politics

Wake probe asks who knew about trips

Posted July 16, 2008

— Wake County officials are trying to figure out who knew how much about a series of questionable trips organized by a former recycling coordinator.

"I think there's other people might be at fault. It's the level of fault that might be assigned to them – that's the questionable part," County Commissioner Tony Gurley said Wednesday.

Two employees with the Environmental Services Department's Solid Waste Management Division have lost their jobs since county officials found then-recycling coordinator Craig Wittig took 46 trips to the coast of Maine for whale watching, Disney World and Las Vegas.

Upon the discovery, officials fired Wittig, who said the trips were for research.
Last week, Jim Reynolds, the solid waste facilities manager, resigned after being on administrative leave in the wake of the discovery. Receipts show he signed off on most of the trips Wittig took.

Three other employees have also left the division as a result.

All the trips were approved, and county officials are trying to determine who else might have known about them.

County officials say senior manager Tommy Esqueda's signature is on one trip in question, but that he did not approve any others.

Commissioners call the trips a waste of county funds.

"I think it's certainly embarrassing," Gurley said. "But I think it gives an opportunity for the county to step up and make sure this doesn't happen again."

As a result, the Wake County Board of Commissioners voted in favor of an audit of all county departments for the past year and the Environmental Services Department for the past two years.

County commissioners are also looking for ways to increase public trust about county spending, including one suggestion to put expense reports online for the public to see.

Because the questionable trips were approved, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said it is still unclear if the case could rise to a criminal level.

"The difference between fraud and bad stewardship often is in someone's intent – whether or not there is a misrepresentation or deceit in what they were doing," Willoughby said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • ofcourse Jul 24, 2008

    Amen masonman. Amen!

  • 1WakeCitizen Jul 21, 2008

    CONTACT YOUR WAKE COUNTY COMMISSIONER AND DEMAND THEY FIRE RAMON RAJANO - HS DIRECTOR. He is tearing that department apart and treats staff extremely disprespful. He is incompetent, arrogand -and will put wake county in jeopardy of law suits. LEAVE Rajano - no one wants you here!!

  • smeyers101 Jul 17, 2008

    Get rid of Tommy Esqueda and David Cooke...it's all a big cover up people! I agree with masonman231 - how could you not notice that your staff was gone as much as Wittig was? Lies, all lies. And too think that my taxes just went up to support these thieves...I hope the Commissioners will exercise their authority to get rid of these crooks before the citizens of Wake County act in November otherwise I can think of some more people out of a job than just Wittig...

  • masonman231 Jul 17, 2008

    ***Must Read***
    Come to find out the hero from the original N&O article, Tommy Esqueda who "discovered" the extravagant spending - knew all along - and signed off on it!! He is just as guilty as the rest who have been fired! He should be gone tomorrow. It's time we all stand up - we elect the people who approve the hiring of these people - this Esqueda guy makes $140,000 plus a year - at that salary he should know better than to approve this type of spending. By the way, what kind of "manager" or director does not realize that his staff is "missing" on trips every other week!

    Email the County Commissioners at commissioners@co.wake.nc.us and tell them to investigate this Esqueda clown!

  • oldschooltarheel Jul 17, 2008

    Clearly this situation demonstrates there are several layers of "guvmint" the citizens of Wake County would be better off without. This feller's "job" was chock full of OTJ "eddikashun" - translated to mean he was doing whatever the job description was without a great deal of learning occurring. While he was "learning" the job wasn't being done. Citizens got along without this job being done so eliminate it altogether. Sounds like some other jobs in the hierarchy are not being done either & thus should also be eliminated altogether. Man, this may make for more Libertarians in Wake County...

  • 1WakeCitizen Jul 17, 2008

    the Commissioners need to look at that Human Services director. he is ruining that fine organization, de-humanizing and degrading staff, ripping the dept. apart, making foolish changes with no planning. CALL AND DEMAND THAT YOUR COUNTY COMMISSIONER LOOK INTO THIS MAN IMMEDIATELY. HE NEEDS TO BE FIRED. LEAVE RAJANO - NO ONE WANTS YOU HERE - LEAVE NOW!!

  • I never said I was perfect Jul 17, 2008

    State = Easley

    County = Wittig, and others

    The only difference is level

    All lack ethics, and are guilty

  • Garnerwolf1 Jul 17, 2008

    Tax Man: you do understand the difference between Wake County and the State of North Carolina don't you? Easley has his own problems, but has nothing to do with what happens at the Wake Co level.

  • Tax Man Jul 17, 2008

    These crooks need to pay back every dime of this money they stole from NC Taxpayers. A complete audit needs to be done of all NC government spending - each and every year. And the crooks that steal from us need to all pay the funds back and go to prison. And the supervisors and their supervisors all need to be fired and prohibited from ever working for the government. We could probably run our state on 1/3 of what we spend if not for the political corruption we have in our government. And it starts at the top! Governor Easley and his wife need to repay all the funds they stole for their vacations and they need to both be fired and prohibited from ever serving in a government job - including at a state university! Bad, Bad crooks is all they are. Give us the money back and then refund it all to the taxpayers.

  • TheAdmiral Jul 17, 2008

    I think they are going to find the problem runs deeper than just the surface problem here.