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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – We followed up with New Hanover County Manager Bruce Shell today and asked him about the allegations County Commissioner Brian Berger made in an email Monday saying county staff was withholding or filtering information that he requested and approving secret meetings that he was not invited to.

Here are the questions we emailed Shell and his response:

1) Why did Brian have to wait so long and have to repeatedly ask for information on the non-attainment issue?

Commissioner Berger’s very broad request for information was made to Planning Department staff. He asked that that information be delivered to him last Thursday. According to our email records, at 4:28 pm, Thursday, Planning Director, Chris O’Keefe emailed the requested information to me. As is customary, I reviewed the information and added more details and responded to Mr. Berger at 11:41 Friday morning.

2) He claimed this morning that he still hasn’t gotten all the information he has requested. Is there a problem getting him what he’s requested?

I am unaware of any information that Mr. Berger hasn’t already received. This included 6 month’s worth of email regarding anything related to air quality issues.

3) Is he correct in saying what he has gotten has been “filtered” by the staff?

No and the requested information from planning staff was referred verbatim and I added additional information.

4) Have there ever been “secret meetings” as he alleges attended by county staff or other county commissioners regarding the non-attainment issue?


Comment on this Story

  • curtiswright


    Sat., March 19, 2011, 5:00 AM
    B B.erger to C. O’Keefe

    “If possible, I’d like to be able to obtain the documents/correspondence requested by this Thursday, but if that isn’t sufficient time then a portion of the materials would make for a good start and/or this request can be whittled down to minimize the time required to compile the information I’m requesting…I know you have more important things on your plates!”

    Thank You,


    (Please do let me know if this presents a burden and we can discuss making it more manageable so it won’t take up significant time…)”

    Monday, March 21, 2011, 9:34 AM
    C. O’keefe to B. Berger

    “Commissioner Berger –

    We have received your request and will process the information as soon as possible. We should be able to have this information to you by Thursday. I believe we do not have correspondence dating back before January of this year but Shawn and I will be thorough in our search.

    If we can provide additional information please let me know.

    Chris O’Keefe”


    P.S. C. O’Keefe is a senior County Official…who works directly for the NHC Manager. If he was not the correct contact for such a request from a County Commissioner, on March 21, 2011, he easily could have walked the 30 feet down the hall and delivered the request and his response to the NHC Manager (or emailed it, and then notified B. berger of his actions). And, on March 21, 2011, at 9:45 AM, the NHC Manager could have informed B. Berger, COunty Commissioner, that the information could not be put together, notified him of that in a timely manner, and then put staff to work on the reasonable request – so B. Berger could know when to receive such information, study such, ask additional questions, and fully educate himself on the issues (avoiding a controversy).

    That’s how professionals in the private sector would have handled a response from a “Board Member” (which B. Berger is in our form of County Government). However, as we have seen from the dozens of consultants we continually need to hire, this management staff at NHC does not have such skills and experience to act professionally.

    B. Berger is a duly elected Commissioner, Member of the Board with the same authority as all other Commissioners (including the Chair), and he has a right to be involved in any and all activities, meetings, correspondence, negotiations, etc. involving NHC business…period. That’s the law.

  • Guest

    “P.S. C. O’Keefe is a senior County Official…who works directly for the NHC Manager.”

    I knew this sounded wrong. According to this organizational chart, the planning department reports to an assistant county manager.

    This is the Information Age for Cripe’s sake. Tell us about the skills and experience needed to act professionally again?

  • curtiswright

    The writer shows his lack of experience in participating in community and NHC Government issues. ALL employees work directly for the County Manager. As it is in the private sector (from one who has actually owned multiple companies, and been in senior management), ALL employees of an organization answer directly to the Sr. Administrative employee. And, for your information, the NHC Manager “works at the pleasure of the Board”. That means, if they don’t like his tie, they can fire him. Thus, when ANY Commissioner asks for information, the NHC Mnager is ultimately responsible to make sure a timely and reasonable response is given. And, NO ONE COMMISSIONER has any more authority or power than another. And, an important point to remember…there was no vote by the NHC Commission to “appoint” Mr. Catlin at the primary contact, nor negotiator on this EPA issue. We should be fortunate that he brought his expertise to the table (even before he was elected) (an act I personally have thanked him for). However, Mr. Catlin, an experieinced business owner knows, when you take ‘the lead’ on yourself, you better be careful of how you proceed. Mr. Berger’s frustrations (borne out in his emails) are something that the NHC taxpayers have voiced for years…so, none of this is new! In fact, years of protests at NHC meetings (rezonings, Titan, Airlie gardens, Taxes, Sewer, etc.), ‘Letters To The Editor’, calls to Radio Shows, emails to NHC Commissioners for year’s have refelcted Mr. Berger’s same frustrations…In fact, many NHC County Commissioners (Sisson,Berzieniks(SP?), Howell, Caster) have been turned out by NHC Voters because of their failed policies, poor treatment of the Public (aka “Titan America”, sewer system collapse, CFPUA, $10 million tax mistake, Airlie Gardens, ABC, etc.) over the years. Mr. Berger’s frustrations reflect the “real and factual” history of NHC politics…as voiced over many years by Taxpayers…so, why are we so surprised (we who have actually lived here and been involved in politics), and why is this all being displayed in such a cheap, ‘tabloid’ manner? More questions, here, than answers….

  • Guest

    “ALL employees work directly for the County Manager…ALL employees of an organization answer directly to the Sr. Administrative employee.”

    Do you know what directly means? Let me help: “1. In a direct line or manner; straight: 2. Without anyone or anything intervening” By your logic, the junior-most tradesman over at GE “works directly for” Jeff Immelt. Next time, try using the phrase ultimately works for” when that’s what you wish to say. But in this case, you were just wrong. Everyone with a pulse knows that all employees in an organization ultimately report to the senior most executive/administrator but there is a chain of command and in this case, you were incorrect about someone reporting directly to the NHC manager.

    “And, for your information, the NHC Manager “works at the pleasure of the Board”. That means, if they don’t like his tie, they can fire him.”

    Thanks for stating the obvious that city and county managers can be removed from office at the pleasure of the board. Some of us haven’t just recently unpacked our UHauls and have followed local current events for a long time. Most notably, we remember when Bill Farris (CoW) and Felix Cooper (NHC) were forced out. The various managers who were let go from the local small towns over the years, who can ever remember all of them?

  • Peter C.

    Again, Macarthy-eque tactics by ABLE. It’s all lies. Show us the proof — show the WWAY reporter the email requests. Where is it? Bruce is a honest man.

  • Guest

    It took 10 days for shell to respond-this is a bunch of crap from the same guy who gave us R3 and that disaster.

  • Scott Pickey

    Guest – let’s be a little more accurate. Yes – he did make his initial request on March 19th – but that was a Saturday. That means staff didn’t start working on it until Monday the 21st. He got his information on Monday the 28th. Is a full work week really that out-of-line?

    Scott Pickey
    News Director

  • Guest

    According to published e-mails berger made a request on 19 March–only on 29 March after a 10 day delay did shell respond-why the time delay-would it have taken this long for BARFIELD? Heck no. Shell is lying or playing losely with the facts-who is he covering for? Catlin and/or Barfield? This isnt about berger and mccoy its about a corrupt, stinky local government — ok folks we get what we deserve. this gang up smells to high heaven.

  • Not Ben

    10 posts + 10 different names = 1 Tea Bagger

    Tell us Ben, how many aliases do you Bag-gets – oops sorry, patriots have!

  • Guest-of-the-day

    I want to know why he didn’t find out that a meeting was taking place until the day of that meeting. OBVIOUSLY he was being kept out of the loop and this offends me to no end that the county is rejecting and minimizing the impact that MY REPRESENTATIVE can make because he is being ostracized by what sounds like a bunch of 5th graders.

    The back and forth comments here about whether all these posts are from Ben McCoy are also completely silly. Do you people really think that Ben McCoy is the only one reading this silly exchange? Maybe we should appoint Ben McCoy to the council next! I wouldn’t be too surprised if this happens by the next election… How do you think minds got changed enough to appoint Berger?

  • Do you always have this much fun playing with yourself? Nevermind – I don’t want to know. For the record, I do not play your cowardly game of hiding behind screen names just to post comments on stories. I either use “WilmWatcher” because of my blog, in which everyone knows is me; or my name “Ben McCoy”. I have never posted anything that wasn’t under one of these two names. Believe it or not – Berger was elected by the people of NHC – logic, a foreign concept I know; would deduce that this would equate to him having many supporters. You could further deduce that several of these people may actually read online news and post comments. I am not afraid of my opinion, and I do not mind signing my name to it. It is people like you, who make libelous accusations against people without any proof, that plays that childish game. However, you are far too cowardly to ever speak to me in person, or even sign your real name to your comments. Now run along, I hear your mommy calling for feeding time.

  • Sarah Sanders

    Considering that the information really involved forwarding pre-existing emails, I would say that yes, a full work week really is out-of-line. Plus, I am very curious just what “details” Shell was referring to. Interesting how your negative articles on Berger are long and yet your coverage of Shell’s response is very short and not very detailed either! Really lovely how you show all sides of the story equally!

  • Just saying

    I have no dog in this fight but from the tone of the 30 minute interview done by WWAY with Berger yesterday and now this piece, it appears someone at WWAY has an agenda. Nothing fair and objective here. The interview was obviously a set up and a “hit piece”.

    I don’t know Brian Berger but after reading his initial email which was respectful and professional requesting public information, I think he has a right to be frustrated and concerned. It looks like the “good ole boys network” is trying to marginalize him. Not good for the citizens of New Hanover county…

  • questionman

    10 day no answer-no excuse-if it had been barfiled it would have been handled differently. why were meetings handled the way they were and not disclosed-no answer here

  • Josh E. Volper

    My opinion is the truth and the whole truth. When I met Mr. Berger at a meeting before his election he certainly expressed the interest of New Hanover County citizens as his deepest concern. When I first met the chairman of the county commissioners he gave his real estate business card. Recently the chairman voted for the development off of market street which residents traveling market street and who live in the area of the development did not want at all. Who is representing the people of New Hanover County rather than there good old boy network. This request for information, press conference controversey, and pat down of Mr. Berger by the other commissioners for his independence is called the commissioners good old boys club. Sorry..Mr. Berger but you will be penalized for not joining but thanks for helping us pilgrims.

  • Guest1974

    Can we really believe the County Manager. Three years ago when ALL county employees had to take 40hrs of furlough time because of the budget, Mr. Shell had a secret meeting where he gave himself and his Assistants a raise. Then two years ago he tries to make it look like he is helping all county employees by saying he isn’t going to take a pay raise also.

    I tried to get WWAY and the StarNews to report on this, but for some reason they refused

    The County Manager is a LIAR!!!!!


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