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Party At N.C. Art Museum Catches Eye Of State Auditor

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A July 24 party at North Carolina Museum of Art is at the center of a critical audit.

An anonymous caller told the State Auditor's Office that it should check out the afternoon party for an employee who was leaving. The refreshments included beer and wine.

"Under no circumstances can employees consume alcoholic beverages on state tax dollars on state tax time," State Auditor Ralph Campbell said. "My first reaction was after reading the report was, 'What were they thinking?'"

The State Auditor's Office sent someone to check out the party. The investigator went through an employee entrance and was not asked for identification.

Museum Director Larry Wheeler said the incident was a slip-up. Alcohol is routinely served at exhibit openings and at the museum's restaurant. The museum has ABC permits for those, but not for going-away parties. However, those alcohol permits are also in question because employees brought in the beer and the wine was apparently donated.

Plus, some employees reported they took "leave" for the party while others said they did not.

"It was like a reception. [It] wasn't like a big, wild party by any stretch of the imagination," Wheeler said. "It was just at the end of the day. People dropped by to say good-bye."

The audit also calls into question the security at the museum because the investigator who went to the party was not asked for identification. The state office that oversees the museum says it will make certain that proper security procedures are followed in the future. Wheeler has also sent the museum staff an e-mail reviewing proper party procedures.

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