Local Politics

Auditor candidates debate credibility

Democrat Beth Wood is challenging State Auditor Les Merritt in next week's election.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The State Auditor's Office is charged with keeping an eye on state agencies and taxpayer-funded projects, so credibility is vital to the person in charge.

Auditor Les Merritt, a Republican seeking re-election, said he has the thick skin needed to seek out waste and mismanagement.

"(The office) should be the taxpayers' watchdog. Under my guidance, it is and it will continue to be," he said.

Merritt said his auditors have dramatically increased the number of performance and investigative audits during the last four years. He said he also led a focused effort to increase disclosure and reporting by non-profit groups.

"I'm extremely proud of how much we've changed that office," he said.

Democrat Beth Wood worked in the State Auditor's Office for 10 years, first under Democrat Ralph Campbell and then under Merritt.

"I know every aspect of the office," said Wood, a certified public account who said she has focused on government auditing and accounting for 15 years.

Wood said the office needs to focus more on uncovering inefficiencies and saving taxpayer money. She said some critical audits, like one that led to a legal battle with the state Ethics Commission, are more politically motivated.

"To make this whole hoopla in the year of the election, it's all a political agenda," she said. "Les has killed his credibility with the governor and the General Assembly."

Merritt dismisses the partisan argument and Wood's experience.

"I didn't make it such that the powers that be right now are the Democrats," he said.



Cullen Browder, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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