State auditor testifies about Easley audit

August 20, 2009 

Beth Wood

State Auditor Beth Wood testified today before the federal grand jury investigating former Gov. Mike Easley.

Most of the questions revolved around an unreleased audit reviewing the $170,000 salary paid to Mary Easley at N.C. State University before she was fired in June, according to Dennis Patterson, a spokesman for Wood.

Wood, a Democrat, had acknowledged in a previous interview that she had told her staff that one reason for not releasing the salary audit was that state Sen. Tony Rand, a powerful Democrat from Fayetteville and a long-time Easley supporter, would poke holes in it, reports Joe Neff.

Rand had represented Mary Easley when Wood's predecessor, Les Merritt, audited her European travels paid by tax dollars. Merritt found that some expenses were questionable.

Wood was worried whether the salary audit would stand up to close scrutiny, Patterson said.

"She told them Tony Rand is a good lawyer, and if he punched holes in the travel audit, he'd rip up this one," Patterson said.

The grand jury also asked whether Wood had been in any business ventures or taken any kind of money or payments from the Easleys or several people associated with them.

"There were none," Patterson said. "She went back through and double-checked."

After Wood testified, her chief deputy, Wesley Ray, was questioned by the grand jury.

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