State auditor is behind on her property taxes

STAFF WRITERFebruary 17, 2010 

— Beth Wood, the state's top financial watchdog, is late on her Wake County property taxes in the amount of $1,234.

Wood, a Democrat who was elected last year, is a certified public accountant. As the state auditor, her job is to ferret out waste, abuse and inefficiencies and to keep an eye on state dollars.

"What can I say? I'm obviously delinquent," Wood said. "Normally what I do is file my tax return and take that refund and pay the property taxes, but with my outstanding debt from the campaign, it's a work in progress."

The property tax on her North Raleigh townhouse valued at $124,000 was due in September, but interest didn't start accruing until January. Wake County property tax records show she has not paid the bill.

Records also show Wood paid her 2008 property tax bill six months late. Wood said she paid her 2008 bill in $200 monthly installments.

As for the current bill, Wood said she took out a $90,000 short-term loan to pay debts owed by her campaign.

"I don't come from a rich family. I don't have rich political ties. I did this campaign on my own," Wood said. "I have this $90,000 campaign debt to get off my back. Once I get rid of that, my situation will improve significantly. ... I may be a little late here, but I pay my bills."

Officials at the state Republican Party declined to comment, as did former auditor Ralph Campbell, a Democrat. Efforts to reach Wood's predecessor, Republican Les Merritt, failed.

Wood spent nearly $200,000 in her campaign, according to campaign finance reports filed with the State Board of Elections. She received nearly $110,000 in contributions, most of which, she said, were from donors who gave less than $500.

Makes $123,000 a year

Wood, 55, makes $123,000 a year as the auditor, a position that is seen as the state's top financial watchdog. She said Tuesday that her personal finances are irrelevant to her work in state government.

"You're putting my personal finances out there to say I'm a bad auditor and that the way I run my personal life is an indication of how I run this office," Wood said. "Agencies are struggling now. Citizens are struggling now. Why does that make me any different?"

Wood was the training director in the state auditor's office when her predecessor, Merritt, was elected in 2004. In 2007, she left the office with plans to run for the top job. In 2008, she worked part time as an investigator with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Durham and campaigned in her spare time.

"I'm the average citizen who ran for office," Wood said. "I put a lot into this campaign personally to win this seat."

ben.niolet@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4521

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