State Examiner Beth Wood attended a party hosted by a prominent Raleigh attorney the night she crashed a state vehicle, multiple sources told WRAL. The incident resulted in a hit-and-run charge against Wood.
The building is partially occupied by the law firm of Edmisten & Webb. According to a copy of the invitation obtained by WRAL, Rufus Edmisten, a partner with the firm and a former attorney general and secretary of state, hosted a Christmas party at the building that evening. Sources tell WRAL that Wood was at a Christmas party that night at Edminsten’s office – the same building that video appears to show her being ushered into after the accident.
People familiar with the event told WRAL News that Wood was at the Edmisten party. According to the invitation, the event included “food, drink and festivities”.
Edmisten has not responded to requests for comment.
Wood, who is scheduled to appear before the Administrative Court on Thursday, has not responded to requests for comment. In a statement Tuesday, her attorney, Roger Smith Jr., said: “Ms. Wood takes full responsibility for their actions and is cooperating with the authorities.”
When asked if Wood had been drinking at the holiday gathering, her attorney did not respond.
In the social media video, taken by rideshare driver Larry Beam, people can be seen walking away from the scene of the accident and leading a woman matching Wood’s description into the building on Salisbury Street, yelling: “Bring get out of here.”
Beam, who posted the video Dec. 8, identified the tall woman as Wood after seeing her on recent news. “She certainly was,” he told WRAL News.
The video then pans to show the aftermath of an accident outside the building — a dark Toyota sedan with a state license plate on top of a parked car. Beam’s video also shows a man standing next to the state car issued to Wood. The man appears to be on the phone and kicking the corner of the car.
“It seems like there are so many other people involved,” Beam said, describing others nearby as “leaving the scene or even [egging] turn it on or allow someone to leave the crime scene.”
Wood is the only person charged in the crash. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Tuesday that investigators found insufficient evidence to charge anyone in connection with the incident.
Legislative leaders agree
Wood, a Democrat, has served as the state auditor since 2009, in her fourth term. Your office acts as a watchdog, investigating financial matters and regulatory processes of state government agencies. It also oversees other parts of state government, including computer systems, and produces special studies requested by the state legislature, among other duties.
On Wednesday, Republicans who lead the state legislature stopped calling for her resignation.
“Auditor Wood has done for a number of years what I think both Republicans and Democrats would say … as a state auditor it has been extraordinary work,” Senate Chairman Phil Berger told reporters at the Statehouse. “The events of December really call a lot of things into question. Whether that goes up to the level of ‘she should resign’ is something I think people would reasonably want to ask.”
“As much as I thought she did a good job, I didn’t vote for her last time and I wouldn’t vote for her in the future,” Berger said. “I don’t know that’s a request to resign, but it’s a realization that I would seek a change at some point.”
Berger added, “She is an elected Democrat. I think it would be important to hear from the Democratic Party if they think their nominee is someone who should stay in office.”
The North Carolina Democratic Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Obviously, this is a worrying situation,” Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday at an event in Moore County. “I am glad that she has raised this matter publicly,” he said, referring to her statement on Monday.
When asked if he thought she should step down, he said: “This is a matter under investigation and should be pursued.”
Republican House Speaker Tim Moore, who said he saw Beam’s video, also said the trial should go ahead in court.
“Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “But it certainly raises some questions and I think you just have to let the criminal trial take its course.”
WRAL State Government reporters Travis Fain and Paul Specht contributed to this report.