RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — State Auditor Beth Wood did not appear in Wake County court Thursday. Instead, her attorney was present.
Wood is accused in a hit-and-run that took place in December. The Raleigh Police Department says she crashed her state-owned car into a parked car.
Video from a bystander shortly after the crash appears to show Wood being escorted into a law office. Wood’s lawyer said Wood has taken full responsibility for her actions and is cooperating with authorities. The presiding judge continued Wood’s hearing until March.
Amid the allegations, Wood has given no public indication as to whether she will choose to fulfill her term in office. But what happens if she doesn’t? Is there a scenario where it wouldn’t be her choice?
Beth Wood is the first woman in North Carolina to hold the office of State Auditor and is now serving her fourth term. Each time she has sworn to uphold the state constitution.
The North Carolina Constitution is also clear about what happens if Wood, or any member of the Council of State, chooses to not remain in office.
“It’s pretty simple. The governor appoints, whether it be an interim or a full-time replacement, and that person serves until the next election that the General Assembly is involved, which would be 2024,” said David McLennan, Professor of Political Science at Meredith College in Raleigh.
If Governor Cooper is constitutionally obligated to designate a new auditor, that person would serve until the voters get a chance to make their own choice.
If Wood decides to stay, whether she is found to be guilty or not, the General Assembly could choose to remove her. If the state House chooses to impeach a member of the Council of State, then that person has to step aside until the state Senate makes a decision.
“And then the Senate would hold the hearing and conduct the trial and could remove the person from office or the person could be acquitted. So it’s very much like the federal level except the person does not remain in office during the entire process,” said McLennan.
Auditor Wood is often in the driver’s seat of holding public agencies accountable when it comes to public dollars. Most recently that includes the town of Spring Lake, the NCDOT and the handling of pandemic relief money.
McLennan said whatever happens may come down to public trust.
“Transparency, particularly in the Auditor’s position, because they look at other public agencies and entities to make sure those agencies and entities are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. So it’s a job that depends on the trust,” he said.