North Carolina Auditor Beth Wood, who has served as the state’s top government watchdog for nearly 15 years, will resign from her position next month, she confirmed Thursday.
The announcement comes 48 hours after Wood was indicted Tuesday by a Wake County grand jury for allegedly misusing her state-assigned vehicle for private uses like driving to out-of-town hair and dental appointments, as well as spas and shopping centers.
Wood, a Democrat, announced last week that she no longer planned to run for reelection, but said Thursday evening that she will step down as auditor on Dec. 15.
“I will step down as State Auditor on December 15, 2023, completing 30 years of service to the State of North Carolina. I made this decision because we have such a great team doing incredibly important work and I don’t want to be a distraction,” Wood said in a statement. “It has been an honor and privilege to work with such a talented staff and to serve the citizens of this great state.”
The grand jury indictment followed an eight-month investigation into Wood’s potential misuse of state-owned vehicles. Scrutiny of her use of those vehicles, which are assigned to state employees by Motor Fleet Management, a division of the N.C. Department of Administration, ramped up after news outlets reported in January that Wood had crashed her state-assigned Toyota Camry into a parked car in downtown Raleigh last December, after leaving a holiday party.
Wood was charged by police a few days after the Dec. 8 crash, but the incident didn’t become public knowledge until it was reported on by news outlets in mid-January. Only then did Wood issue a statement apologizing for leaving the scene of the crash without informing police, calling it a “serious mistake.”
In March, Wood pleaded guilty in Wake County court to a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge, after paying more than $11,000 in restitution to repair both cars. During that court appearance, Wood disclosed that she had two glasses of wine at the holiday party, but said she wasn’t impaired when she got behind the wheel of her car.
Wood insisted over the course of several months that she wouldn’t resign, telling The News & Observer in late February that if she could go back and change her decision, she would, but that the hit-and-run “does not define me, nor does it take away from the phenomenal work we’ve done in my administration.”
She also announced, after the crash came to light, that she planned to run for what would be her fifth term as auditor. She reversed course last week, when she said while testifying before a legislative committee that she wouldn’t run again.
Over four terms as auditor, Wood identified millions of dollars in government waste and conducted investigations into Democrats and Republicans, earning the respect of high-ranking officials and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Wood was first elected in 2008, becoming the first woman to serve as auditor, after spending the decade prior working in different roles in the office.
Leaving office early will allow Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to appoint Wood’s successor, who could run for reelection next year as an incumbent, as opposed to running in an open, more competitive seat.
Five Republicans have already announced that they will seek the office next year: Jack Clark, a certified public accountant; David Boliek, chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees; Charles Dingee, former chair of the Wake County Young Republicans; A.J. Daoud, former NCGOP district chairman; and Jim Kee, former Greensboro City Council member.
Luis Toledo, a former assistant state auditor and the first Democrat to enter the race, announced his run last week.