“Gentleman’s agreement” is sparking controversy in Brunswick County

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Submitted: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 3:18am
Updated: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 4:30pm

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.”


  • goose says:

    As a former teacher, I’ve sacrificed for the good of my profession, going without a pay raise for several years in a row, using my own money to buy supplies, even buying my own desk chair, clock, and storage cabinet. Brunswick County teachers have been denied access to field trips due to budget restrictions, inconvenienced by combined high school and middle school bus routes due to rising gas costs and budget restrictions, and been required to work increasingly longer hours, partly to accommodate the longer combined bus routes. Certainly neither overtime pay nor even always fair and equitable reimbursement for expenses are considerations for Brunswick County teachers. Now I better understand why we’ve had no money for field trips, furniture, (I got my desks one of the last years I taught from the junked furniture pile because a fellow teacher “took” the desks from my classroom after the room was assigned to me). Now, I can see the budget restrictions, field trip ban, combined bus routes, lack of decent classroom furniture, etc., were due, in part, to thievery, dishonesty and corruption of the intended provision of the “gentlemen agreement” that provided reimbursement to the commissioners. I feel like spitting when I see one of them, especially Marty Cooke, who is the biggest thief. I wonder if his wife is “sacrificing” similarly on the Board of Ed.?

  • county employee says:

    As a county employee I am outraged by the items that our County commissioners are getting paid for. They should all be ashamed of themselves for putting in for reimbursements for attending funerals. I would like to know what EMT classes have to do with being a county commissioner. I would like to know why a realtor attending a board of realtor’s meeting would constitute a commissioner’s claim for attending a meeting. How dare one of them put in a claim for working the litter sweep, attending parades (to watch) and a graduation, these events are things you chose to attend that are not required to accomplish your job as a county commissioner. We (County Departments)had to cutback spending while you, the Brunswick County Commissioners, have disgraced our County with your reckless and immoral spending. And you want to know why there is no public trust, maybe it is because you are not acting like “gentlemen” but more like crooks.

  • rebel says:

    Hey what they(commissioners) all need to do is pool their travel
    money and help one of them pay his taxes on time lol

  • Supplytaxpayer says:

    I am frankly pi**ed off by Bill Sue’s attitude. HOW ARROGANT can you get. “A man needs to be paid for his services”, what in the h**l! You made the decision to be a public servant and understood the obligations associated with it. Nothing like sucking money from the taxpayers who are already going broke paying county taxes. You say 6 months ago the county will have to buckle down and save money, well that sure as h**l must not apply to commissioners. One more thing…How about Mr. Cooke chasing all the Emergency Management events and EM schools being paid for with county money…I think someone better start disclosing some information soon, or some taxpayers are gonna come seeking some accountability at the complex. I am mad and hope the citizens vote everyone one of the commissioners out of office.

  • Taxpayer!!! says:

    What people don’t seem to get is that they do get paid for their time, they get a salary of 11,000.00 and 13,000.00 for the chairman. But they are getting paid $50.00 per meeting plus .50 a mile they drive. So in my opion they are being paid twice for thier “TIME”. While the employee’s of Brunswick County which Taxpayers and Voters as well have gone with out a Pay Rise for almost 3 years and from the way it looks we will not be getting one anytime soon. The Rich get Richer While The Poor Get Poorer……..

  • Guest says:

    No, they should not be paid for their time. They are elected public officials who have supposedly contributed their time as good citizens.
    This is not right, and all one needs to do is read each and every unintelligible double-speak quote contained in the article to conclude that the commissioners know very well that they are engaged in unauthorized misuse of our tax dollars, and I for one think that there is a good opportunity to start reducing my tax obligations right here!

  • Guest-of-the-day says:

    and that they are *probably* underpaid, but with all the recent high profile irresponsible behavior revealed at high levels (I.E. ABC board; several license plate outlets found to be pocketing the cash, etc.), I am less inclined to trust that more lining of the pockets isn’t going on until I see some sort of audit process put in place.

    It seems that these so-called “gentleman’s agreements” are all too common in North Carolina politics and should be updated to a more modern form of government oversight. This is all so 19th century…

  • Guest says:

    They are paid. No one was forced to run for public office, that was a personal decision each commissioner made. Before either of the commissioners ran he should have taken a long look at his personal finances and time to determine if he could afford to be a public official. My bias opinion is each commissioner only saw the $$$$$. Some per diem may have been warranted, but not going to funerals or high school graduations. Attendance at a funeral is out of respect for the family and the deceased not a wage earning event. It would appear the commissioners wanted to get reimbursed every time their vehicle was turned on. Again, it is my bias opinion the greed of these commissioners and their unwillingness to put a stop to the extra funds they are receiving is behind the anger of the citizens and we have a right to question. A hold should be put on all per diem requests until further investigation is complete. Also, the county manager is not the person to investigate since he answers to the commissioners. Once again our tax money is being abused yet no one is answering to us.

  • Guest says:

    They asked the public to vote so they could serve. The rest is under the table and dishonest. May god have mercy on them. “THOU SHALL NOT STEAL”

  • Robert says:

    These commissioners do not have the values needed to hold their positions. They should all be replaced at the next election.

  • Guest says:

    This is just one more case of politicians embezzeling tax payers money. Their should be a proper investigation, and the should have to pay the money back.

  • Guest says:

    This is fraud. They should repay the money.

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