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New Hanover County Commission votes to oust Brian Berger

New Hanover County

Listen here for the exchange between White and Berger.

Embattled New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger is likely on his way out. 

Chairman Woody White called for Berger’s resignation last month after a series of actions over the last several weeks by Berger that alarmed the Board – including the public accosting of Governor Pat McCrory during a ceremony at Cape Fear Community College. 

The Board voted last night to censure Berger and to file an amotion.  Just before the vote, Commissioner Thomas Wolfe castigated Berger for refusing to step down.

" I think the best you could do is resign.  You’ve brought shame and dishonor upon this council.  And I'm mad about it and I don't want to put up with it anymore."

Brian Berger interrupted, saying, "We're going to have to disagree on that, and..."

Thomas Wolfe fired back.

"Well, of course we are.  You can't see where you've done anything wrong.  You think you're a white knight on a shining horse.  Well, I got news for you Mr. Berger.    You're not.  You're a disgrace.  Do the community the right thing.  Stand up like a man and resign."

The motion to censure Berger and initiate an amotion to remove him carried – three to one.  Jonathan Barfield left earlier during the meeting, saying he wasn’t feeling well.  

Just before the Board of Commissioners voted to censure Berger and start the legal process to oust him, Chairman Woody White gave Berger more than 30 minutes to explain himself. 

White listens carefully, repeatedly asking Berger to be specific in his allegations.

The Chairman appears concerned, almost gentle, as he prods Berger to tell the Board and the public more about how he’s been antagonized by those with whom he disagrees.

“Can you give us an example of where you’ve been bullied or threatened or harassed by any commissioner or any member of the staff?”

Long pause.

Brian Berger said, “Well, I’m glad you brought up staff because there’s been a lot that’s been said about my, uh, supposedly being highly critical of staff and, uh…I don’t pay too much attention to…”

Woody White:  “The question is:  can you give an example of when you’ve been bullied or threatened or harassed by any of us or any member of staff?  If it’s ‘yes’ then it’s something we’re interested in hearing.”

Berger affirms that there have been instances of what he calls "retaliation".  Woody White again asks for an example.   Another long pause, and then…

“To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if this is the time and place for that discussion.”

“It’s in front of the citizens.  There’s no better time or place.  And I welcome the evidence of that because it’s troubling if it’s true.”

Berger backs away.  He says he doesn’t want to level accusations against past Board members who aren’t present to defend themselves. 

The legal process to oust Berger begins with the filing of an amotion –typically a mechanism used to remove officers of a corporation.  The censure, which amounts to a public reproach -- is set for April 22nd.  

Berger continues to dispute the notion that he's dysfunctional as a public official.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.