WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – After seeing an email that New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger sent to County Manager Bruce Shell and other county staffers, Commissioners Jonathan Barfield, Jason Thompson and Rick Catlin sent Berger an email calling him out for his unprofessionalism.
He fired back Tuesday with this email:
Dear Rick, Jason and Jonathan,
Just a few comments on your rather bizarre self-serving e-mails. This may be a change from the practices of the past but as a new Commissioner, new to county government, if I have questions I will ask them of staff. Rick you owe me and staff an apology for both the tone of your e-mail and it’s blatent mischaracterization of what was requested (below). Like you, I treat staff with the respect and courtesy they all deserve. I am mindful of how hard working many of them are. My requests for additional information were motivated by the need to be better informed on the key issue of non-attainment and what we are doing about. This isn’t your issue–It’s an issue for all of us in the County. All the Commissioners need to be kept informed on a timely basis. You might forget that when I called you from Washington D.C. not long ago you were “too busy” too respond to a question relevant to a meeting we were having with some of our elected representatives on this issue. Yet, you had time to respond to numerous self-promoting media requests on other issues that day. While you were conducting your media tour, Shawn Ralston promptly provided the information I requested which led to more progress that morning than all your meetings with special interest groups.
As an elected official I have a responsibility to fight for the best interests of the taxpayers of the County, and when denied public information, subjected to exclusions, and petty actions, I am compelled to take action. I will not doubt your sincerity on this issue- don’t question mine. All of us have a concern with this issue. You should recall that the NHC community was quite concerned recently with meetings between the Chairman and Vice-Chairman with the School Board which were not as beneficial as they might have been with all of us involved. Likewise, discussion of the funding of the Art Council was largely overshadowed by the deceptiveness involved in sneaking the proposal into an agenda and passing it without public notice or debate – led by the same Chairman and Vice-Chairman…more business as usual in New Hanover County.
If people are kept informed they will have less questions. Unlike you Rick, I haven’t been part of county government and the status quo for many years and if I have questions I will ask them. Rick, since you portend to be against some trying to stifle free speech, it is a bit contradictory for you to want to limit who knows what and when. All I request, is to be kept better informed, I have no issue with others taking the lead.
Jason– I have enjoyed working with you, even though we differ from time to time– but your use of the term “der fuhrer’ in these circumstances is both highly offensive and inappropriate. Too often in the past, we had a County Government that was not transparent. Backroom deals were used instead of strategic planning and innovative thinking to solve problems, and your approach according to your own explanation is a throwback to “business as usual” which created this economic and environmental threat we now face and voters rejected in large numbers last year. Maybe if people had asked more questions and insisted on better answers we wouldn’t have issues like R3 and all the unanswered questions surrounding the company and decision to award them a now infamous contract.
If my requesting information in a respectful manner is a problem for you—get used to it.
Brian M. Berger