North Carolina State Auditor Beth Wood is being accused of overstepping her authority in a lawsuit filed by Cumberland County Sheriff Ennis Wright.
Wood’s office told the sheriff’s office last October that they wanted to investigate his office but would not give the reason why, including if the investigation involved looking at any criminal activity.
Wright’s office did send public records that the auditor’s office requested but refused to give records that he deemed protected under state law, according to a report from WRAL.
The report said the two offices held discussions in the ensuing months before Wood’s office subpoenaed Wright in March, requesting a personnel file of the sheriff’s office chaplain Mark Rowden, documents to a citation, and documents related to improvements at the county shooting range, according to the lawsuit. Auditors also wanted to be able to question all employees of the county’s crime scene investigative unit.
Wright had concerns, still not knowing the reason behind the investigation, and questioned Wood’s authority to investigate his office. It prompted him to file a lawsuit in May in Cumberland County Superior Court.
At a hearing in Cumberland County on Tuesday, Wood’s office asked for a change of venue for the lawsuit. A ruling on the request is expected in the next week or so.
A Senate bill currently sitting in the House Rules Committee after passing in the Senate in April would help Wright and others in law enforcement in the future if passed and signed into law.
SB 80, State Auditor Disclosure and Discovery Act, would help criminal prosecutions that begin as audits and remove some of the state auditor’s ability to withhold information by giving law enforcement easier access to the state auditor’s internal files.
A spokesperson for Wood’s office told Carolina Journal in an emailed statement that her office is unable to comment about the lawsuit at this time.