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Departing state Auditor Beth Wood pleads guilty to misusing state vehicle, gets probation

 State auditor Beth Wood at a Raleigh GOTV event on Oct. 21, 2020.
NCAE
/
via Flickr
State auditor Beth Wood at a Raleigh GOTV event on Oct. 21, 2020.

On her last day on the job, North Carolina State Auditor Beth Wood pleaded guilty Friday to two misdemeanors for misusing a state-issued vehicle for personal activities.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway sentenced Wood to 12 months of unsupervised probation on the counts, news outlets reported. Wake District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said that Wood had paid $1,064 in restitution as part of a plea agreement.

The sentencing and her resignation appear to complete a year in which Wood's driving ultimately led to her departure as auditor, an office she first won in 2008. Wood announced her resignation last month, two days after a grand jury indicted her on the charges.

The counts said 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, a Democrat, said last month 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.

Wood attorney Roger Smith Jr. said Friday that she accepted responsibility for driving her state car for personal use.

"This is a sad day for Beth Wood," Smith said in a statement. "For the past 15 years, she has been honored to serve the people of this state. She absolutely loved her job and is thankful for the opportunity to have served. She has paid a heavy price, but she looks forward to her next chapter."

While auditor, Wood was apt to receive praise or scorn from officials from both parties for reviews from her agency that criticized the misuse of government funds.

"One of the things striking in this case is she, for 15 years, held people accountable but then violated the rules," Freeman said Friday. "This is a double standard."

The indictment followed a monthslong investigation by state agents that appeared to mushroom after she was cited in December 2022 for leaving the scene of a crash when she drove her state-owned vehicle into a parked car in downtown Raleigh. No one was hurt.

An apologetic Wood pleaded guilty in March to misdemeanor hit-and-run involving the crash and paid fines and court costs. A few months later, Wood, now 69, said she was still planning to run for reelection.

In keeping with the state constitution, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper appointed former Wake County Commission Chair Jessica Holmes to complete Wood's term as auditor through the end of 2024 once she departs. Holmes filed this month to run for the position next year. Several Republicans also are seeking their party's nomination for auditor in an upcoming primary.

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