RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State Auditor Beth Wood announced on Thursday that she will resign from her elected post next month, a decision coming two days after she was indicted on charges that she misused her state-owned vehicle for personal activities.
Wood, a Democrat who was first elected auditor in 2008, had already announced last week that she wouldn't seek reelection in 2024. That was revealed before a Wake County grand jury formally accused her of a pair of misdemeanors.
“I will step down as State Auditor on December 15, 2023, completing 30 years of service to the State of North Carolina,” Wood said in a written statement, “I made this decision because we have such a great team doing incredibly important work and I don’t want to be a distraction. It has been an honor and privilege to work with such a talented staff and to serve the citizens of this great state.”
The indictment followed an eight-month investigation by state agents that appeared to germinate after she was cited last December for leaving the scene of a crash when she drove her state-owned vehicle into a parked car. Wood pleaded guilty in March to misdemeanor hit-and-run involving the crash and paid fines and court costs. She apologized, telling the presiding judge that she had made a “grave mistake” by leaving the accident scene.
The state constitution directs Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to appoint someone to fill the remainder of her four-year term through the end of 2024. Cooper also could initially name an interim auditor before making a full appointment. The appointee could decide to run for the job next year. Several people had already announced they're running. Candidate filing begins next month, with primary elections in March.
Wood informed Cooper of her resignation decision on Thursday afternoon, the governor’s office said.
Cooper “respects her decision and thanked her for her years of service to North Carolina,” spokesperson Jordan Monaghan said in a text message. “Our office will have more information about the appointment process for this position in the coming days.”
This week's indictment alleged that in 2021 and 2022, Wood used an assigned state-owned vehicle for “hair appointments and dental appointments out of town, traveling to shopping centers and spa locations where she was not engaged in business in her official capacity.”
Wood, 69, said on Tuesday that she was “very disappointed” that Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman had brought the charges against her. Wood said that she had reimbursed the state to cover personal use of the car by purposely overpaying for miles in which she commuted to her job.
A Craven County native, Wood is a certified public accountant who worked in the State Auditor’s Office for nearly 10 years before she defeated incumbent Auditor Les Merritt in 2008.
The state auditor is one of 10 positions within the Council of State, which also includes the governor, attorney general and other statewide elected executive branch officials. Her office issues audits often critical of state government operations and what it considers mismanaged local governments and taxpayer money — leaving her with both friends and enemies on both sides of the political aisle.
The Dec. 8 accident, which happened in downtown Raleigh after she said she left a holiday party, resulted in car damage but no injuries. Her police citation became public weeks later. The accident led to examinations of her use of a state vehicle. The state’s motor fleet management director suspended her vehicle assignment in January as the crash investigation continued.
In June, Wood said she would seek reelection next year. When reversing her decision last week, Wood didn't mention specifically any legal troubles except to say that she has "made mistakes along the way, but I have acknowledged them and have learned from them.” She said she wanted to now embark on a public speaking career.