BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- For years, Brunswick County's five commissioners have been pocketing $50 a piece just for showing up to their official meetings. Taxpayers are not happy about it.
County commissioners fear there's been a loss of faith and trust in their positions, and it stems from what they call a "gentleman's agreement," which dates back to the early '90s. Brunswick County Commissioner Bill Sue says it's no secret.
"It's been a part of the budget all along," Sue said. "It's been going on for 18 to 20 years, so how can that be a secret?"
Questions were raised, voices were heard and votes were counted at Thursday night's Brunswick County GOP meeting. Sue says reimbursement for county commissioners is nothing new. Back in the early '90s, a "gentleman's agreement" was created to help with commissioner's expenses as they traveled throughout the county.
"That's the way it's ever been since then, so it's nothing new," Sue said. "It's been part of our budget the whole time. The budget has been open for everyone to scrutinize. We've had public hearings on the budget."
The problem is the agreement was never put down on paper.
"People are afraid of the unknown, and they get upset when you throw something on them - change," Brunswick County Commissioner Scott Phillips said. "It's nothing that no one in government didn't know."
There's also no true definition of what a meeting entails, which gives room for taxpayers to wonder what the commissioners get reimbursed for.
"If you go to define a meeting, now you define a meeting, and it's almost impossible to define a meeting," Sue said. "Commissioners are involved in so many different things."
The commissioners say they've been transparent with their work and say they've only written off mileage and meetings that benefit the county.
"A man needs to be paid for his services, and we are no where near paid for the time and effort we put in," Sue said.
Commissioners can understand citizens' concerns about the per diems. They say there's always room for improvement and will do what they can to restore their trust. After all, the commissioners are in their jobs because the citizens put them there.
"I feel like we have to take it to the people more," Phillips said. "All this information is free of charge, available at the complex, but if people don't know where to get it, they don't know it."