March Council of State news roundup  

North Carolina State Auditor Beth Wood makes an appearance in Wake County court on Thursday, March 23, 2023 in Raleigh, N.C. Wood pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of a December crash in which she drove her state-issued vehicle into a parked car. (Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH — In March, the governor gave his State of the State address, State Auditor Beth Wood plead guilty to charges stemming from her December 2022 car accident, and Council of State offices announced various upcoming activities. 

Gov. Roy Cooper delivered his fourth and final State of the State address at the General Assembly in Raleigh on March 6. Topics in Cooper’s remarks covered electric vehicles, business development, mental health, education and Medicaid expansion. He also released a $67 billion budget proposal that includes a more than 21% increase in spending over the biennium, a move that top lawmakers called “reckless.” 

The governor also awarded the Parks and Recreation Authority $9.6 million in park accessibility grants for 21 projects across the state, and he released a comprehensive plan to invest $1 billion to address “North Carolina’s mental health and substance use crisis” as well as issues like anxiety and depression. 

Wood pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of a December crash in Raleigh that involved her driving her state-owned vehicle into a parked car. Wood will serve no jail time and was issued $300 in fines and court costs. 

The state auditor admitted to having been drinking that evening, however, told the judge she was not impaired. 

“I was not impaired, but given the positioning of the two cars and the fact that I had had two glasses of wine at this event, I made an error in judgment in the moment,” Wood said in court on March 23. “And if I made the right decision, we would not be here today.” 

Two Chapel Hill men who were in the car with her that night, Jonah Richard Mendys and Ryan Scott McGuirt, were also recently charged. Mendys has been accused of failing to report Wood’s crash, obstruction of justice, failure of a passenger to give information about the accident and helping her into a nearby building to avoid police. McGuirt has been charged with obstructing justice and accessory after the fact. Police also say McGuirt drove Wood away from the scene in his pickup truck. 

N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler spoke to the House Agriculture Committee about his department’s high vacancy rate and various agricultural industry concerns such as preserving farmland related to the impact of residential and development growth. Both topics of concern were addressed by Troxler during his remarks at the 2023 N.C. Agriculture Forum held Feb. 2. 

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will host a set of information sessions on April 13 showcasing recent investments in agricultural research. The one-day event will be held at the Steve Troxler Agricultural Sciences Center in Raleigh from 8:30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Lunch will be served for registered guests. 

N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein said in a press release that he is “still fighting for DACA” and has filed a friend-of-the-court brief “pushing back against the ongoing, misguided effort led by Texas to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.” 

Despite additional funding from the legislature, the state’s rape kit backlog continues to persist. In 2017, North Carolina was No. 1 in the nation for untested rape kits with a backlog of more than 15,000. The state has made some headway, but the backlog still hasn’t been cleared five years later. The number of kits in inventory currently stands at 16,223, according to early March numbers posted on the N.C. Department of Justice’s (NCDOJ) data dashboard. As of March 6, some 7,305 kits are still in the inventory backlog.  

On March 17, the Center for Safer Schools housed under the N.C. Department of Public Instruction marked its 10th anniversary at a ceremony in Raleigh. Officials giving remarks included the center’s executive director, Karen Fairley, House K-12 Education Committee chair Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston), former statehouse Rep. Jamie Boles, N.C. Superintendent Catherine Truitt and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jerry Oates. N.C. Department of Public Safety Secretary Eddie Buffaloe was also in attendance.  

Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey announced March 15 the arrests of two individuals this past month for various insurance fraud crimes. Diamon Diantria Rollinson of Gastonia was charged with three counts of insurance fraud, all felonies, and one misdemeanor count of making a false statement on an insurance application. Robin Teara Lawson of Greensboro was charged with insurance fraud and obtaining property by false pretense, both felonies.  

During a monthly call with reporters, State Treasurer Dale Folwell warned that the recent bid by Novant Health to acquire Lake Norman Regional Medical Center and David Regional Medical Center may erode health care quality in the state. He also expressed concern over the continued consolidation of health care in North Carolina. The Novant purchase transaction is worth around $320 million but still must obtain regulatory approvals. Novant says the deal is expected to close later this year.  

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall announced on March 8 that her agency joined other state securities administrators and the Securities and Exchange Commission in a $45 million settlement with crypto platform Nexo Capital Inc. (Nexo). The settlement was related to the offering of unregistered securities. 

About A.P. Dillon 976 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_