ONLY ON 3: Unemployed county commissioner retains huge legal gun

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Submitted: Wed, 06/08/2011 - 9:30pm
Updated: Wed, 06/08/2011 - 11:07pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — In a news release sent to local media Tuesday afternoon, District Attorney Ben David said he had spoken with attorney Joe Cheshire regarding concerns Cheshire’s client, New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger, has over unemployment documents released to the media last week.

That’s right, the same Joe Cheshire who represented former Gov. Mike Easley during his recent legal problems. The same Joe Cheshire who represented then-state Sen. R.C. Soles for shooting a man in the back of the leg. The same Joe Cheshire Gov. Bev Perdue hired to help with a criminal investigation into her campaign. The same Joe Cheshire who represented contractor Lee Cowper, who pleaded guilty to embezzling from the New Hanover County ABC Board. And the same Joe Cheshire who represented a member of the Duke lacrosse who faced sexual assault allegations.

So how does a county commissioner who claims “it’s (been) impossible for my business to maintain itself” and admits to drawing unemployment for at least the last six months afford to retain one of the highest profile trial attorneys in the state?

We’re tracking down answers and will have the story for you tonight on WWAY NewsChannel 3 at 6.


  • SurfCityTom says:

    If he did nothing wrong, why would he feel the need to retain a “Top Gun” defense attorney?

  • WillBDone says:

    Well it looks as if you are a typical sleazy politician. You lie to us all along and now you want someones head to roll to take the attention away from you. That’s called deflection. Go ahead follow through on the witch hunt it doesn’t change what you are…just another lying public official like Edwards, Soles, Easley and Clinton. What a waste of my vote you were.

    Hey Carolyn Justice how about helping us with a recall vote like Topsail!

  • Larry says:

    Berger is the only on I would trust on the commission. A man of the people the way I see it.

  • Guest104 says:

    This is mudslinging at its worst. From Murrow to pickney–how low can we go.
    I agree with McCOy(can that be?) You have lied, distorted and miarepresented a number of times. You outright lied about attendance of berger viz a viz other commissioners. You left out groups where he was always there and lied about other commssioners who were not.
    You used stolen notes and made innuendos and slanted that story–will you tell us who gave you the stolen materials? You are in no positon to shallenge anyone else on transparency.
    I am glad this guy got himself a big gun–its about time he went after some folks–as for this leaker he should at the least be fired. If it was the private sector he would be gone.
    I hope this guy tells you to take a walk–you arent worthy of being given time by anyone.

  • Guest Apu says:

    I don’t think he hired Mr. Chesire to defend him; I think he hired him to sue the County.

  • SurfCityTom says:

    it matters not what you think.

    The skills of Mr. Cheshire are in the area of defense attorney not civil action.

  • Guest Apu says:

    As far as has been reported, Mr. Berger is not the target of a criminal investigation, the County is. So, it doesn’t have anything to do with what Mr. Berger has done. That is, unless the folks in D.C. are investigating him for unemployment fraud. I’m curious about that possibility. I wonder if it’s possible that he failed to report his wages as a Commissioner?

    Either way, are you of the opinion that only people with something to hide need to hire good attorneys? If so, just go ask the Duke LAX players about that one.

    It matters not what you think either. You opinion carries no more or less weight than mine. Actually, most people probably don’t care what either of us think. You don’t have to be so rude. I was just commenting on what he may have hired an attorney for.

  • SurfCityTom says:

    Mr. Cheshire is a criminal attorney; not a tort or plaintiff attorney. And it is very possible, if benefits were paid by another state jurisdiction, Mr. Berger may have some legal issues to address.

    Rude I am not; Blunt and candid, definitely.

  • WilmWatcher says:

    Scott – to say that you don’t sling mud at Berger is hilarious. It’s the manner in which the stories are written; the implications; the tone and tenor of the story, and where you are able to convince in the minds of the simple-minded buffoons who believe what they read on your site to be fact.

    You have also published outright lies. Your story on the attendance records stated that Rick Catlin had a perfect attendance at the CFPUA. Wrong. Him and Berger were both in Raleigh on county business at the same exact time during one meeting; and the meeting before last, Catlin never showed up, never called anybody, never emailed – nothing. But you didn’t see that fit for a story. However if it was Berger…

    If you want to beat the hell out of the guy – fine. But be honest about it. Don’t attempt to take the high road of journalistic integrity and simultaneously sensationalize and editorialize the hell out of anything having to do with Berger. You have made him out to be a complete lunatic incapable of even acting sane enough to feed himself.

    People that know Brian can vouch for the fact that he is stubborn as hell, that he has dropped the ball a couple of times, but also that he is a good guy with a good heart; and is comparatively no worse in any way whatsoever than any other commissioner, if the media had any inclination to actually rip into their lives like you have of Berger. But you’re too damn afraid to do that. Berger is the sore thumb that’s easy to attack. He’s not a power player in the community like the other commissioners with sway over business and other interests; which makes them immune to media hype and intense scrutiny. But keep catering to the one or two moronic dipsh*ts that live for your next invaluable contribution into the life and times of Brian Berger.

  • Schultz says:

    We can agree to disagree. If you look back, I am not a proponent of Berger. I think he is underqualified to say the least. But WilmWatcher has it right…you’ve been on him from the start. He’s not a power player and easy prey.

    What bothers me about this is that good people who have made mistakes here and there (as we all have) will not try to run for office or help our community. I am not trying to make something out of nothing, but it’s obvious. Whether GOP, Dem, whatever, we all understand the need for short term unemployment. It’s the long term or lifers that are the issue.

    Tranparency…there is a grey area when it comes to personal issues. If you’re in public office, you risk your privacy…I get it. However, I don’t think WWAY is representing the majority of it’s readers by over-reporting this fact. It’s impossible to find people without a black mark somewhere who have the skills to gain public positions. They take above average risks.

    Berger should have faced this issue head on. Maybe this will be a good experience for his “business.”

  • Guest2012 says:

    “…and where you are able to convince in the minds of the simple-minded buffoons who believe what they read on your site to be fact.”

    And furthermore, he ACTUALLY said this:

    “But keep catering to the one or two moronic dipsh*ts that live for your next invaluable contribution into the life and times of Brian Berger.”

    Wilm Watcher is HYPO-CRITICAL of local citizens who “EXPRESS THEMSELVES”.

    Wilm Watcher should know better than anyone that FREEDOM OF SPEECH is our Fundamental right here in America. Once more, we do not live in Communist China, and besides freedom to blog, I view my peers as PRETTY DARN BRIGHT, and quite competent to discern if a story is true or not, if a story has merit, if a story is worth blogging on.

    I have seen and heard that Wilm Watcher has designs on a seat for City Council, so HE better wise-up and QUIT INSULTING the very people that he may depend on for a vote.

    there has been much interest into Brian Bergers foibles. Why should there NOT be, after all, the stuff he pulls is out of this world, it’s UNREAL!

    Also, Wilm Watch, DO NOT TRY TO TELL ME what I can or cannot CHOOSE to be interested in!
    I am a TAX payer and will continue to show interest in the Brian Berger constant problems, lies, fights,tardinesses, missed meetings and briefings, his own press conferences crying that the other boys are picking on him, but I will also continue to show an equal interest in how other VOTING Tax payers view Mr. Bergers on-going foibles!

    I will continue to Blog ABOUT ANY DAMN THING I WANT TO! Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but NAMES like “moronic dipsh*ts” will NEVER hurt me. Sorry your boy Brian is so FRAGILE! Geeze!

    I will be hoping and praying that there are lessons being LEARNED not to elect ARROGANT, STUBBORN or HYPO-CRITICAL people to elected seats.

    I intend to vote.

    I intend to execute my Freedom of Speech right and inform you right now that I won’t vote for you due to your incessent need to criticise people who EXPRESS their opinion.

  • Guest of no one says:

    Im just curious, where is the story? A guy who is an elected official is unemployed? Or is it he is receiving unemployment insurance benefits while professing to be a “consultant”? You seem to have a problem with the term consultant. Suppose a consultant is a title, sort of like a News Director or reporter is a Title. If so then when asked, “what is your profession?” after being fired or laid off from WWAY, and drawing unemployment, what would you say? Would you answer “unemployed” or would you say, “News Director”?

    Half of Wilmington’s film community, crew members, are unemployed half the year, ask one of them what they do for a living, they will say that they are a grip or a camera guy or whatever, not one of them will say that they are on the dole, slang for collecting unemployment.

    This smells of a campaign against Berger, there’s nothing here, you said as much yourself when you said, “For example, we’ve all asked him what he does for a living – he’s dodged all of our questions.” Dodging questions is not a bad thing. Can I ask you how much money you make? Want to answer? Yes he is an elected official, he has stated he is a consultant. There’s your answer. You want more though, you want to know how much money he has made as a consultant. Who cares.

  • Guest3434 says:

    First of all I want to say that WWAY has taken “investigative” reporting to new levels over the past year or 2. Mr. Pickey, your organization is like the weird kid at a party who says one funny thing and keeps beating it like a dead horse until everybody’s tired of hearing it. Brian Berger needs to reevaluate his position as a county commissioner, but what is next?? Are you going to follow him to the grocery store and report that he is buying Fruit Loops instead of Fruity O’s????
    However, Ben McCoy you do nearly the same thing on your show. You drag every single politician (minus your robot Mr. Berger) and their political decisions through the mud while not having enough support to win any elected office!!! Through Mr. Berger, you have called for transparency in our government. THIS IS TRANSPARENCY. You can not call of a legal review of how this information was released when it is public information. If Mr. Berger had nothing to hide and wanted to be transparent, why (until recently) as he never released any information on his own personal business so that the tax payers can see what his agenda really is?

  • Challengetheworld says:

    Of course he has been exposed and now he is freaking out. He knows that this wouldn’t look good on his political persona so now he is trying to figure out some psuedo legal way to skirt the truth. I trust no one who will not reveal what “consulting” they do. Is he in the adult film industry or something? Does he consult terrorists? I mean, I could come up with a million possible negative scenarios. Wouldn’t it be much easier to just say the truth? Why does it have to be such a secret? How do we know we don’t have a criminal on our hands?

    When you run for political office, you have to be willing to be forthcoming about some items of your life. You cannot be veiled in secrecy if you want all of the public trust. Clearly, WWAY, Starnews etc have struck a chord here. Normally, I think they are way to personal with how they deal with polticans but they really have uncovered a rotten apple here. I hope it all comes out clean, for the community’s sake. However, if someone is lawyering-up this quickly, history doesn’t usually bode to well for a positive outcome.

    Smells like a wilmington-gate.

  • ronald wells says:

    “But keep catering to the one or two moronic dipsh*ts…”

    Such tough language. The only moronic dipsh*ts I see are the ones who
    still think Brain Burger is remotely capable of performing duties as an elected official on the Board of Commissioners. Duties that he never even started!

    “You have made him out to be a complete lunatic incapable of even acting sane enough to feed himself.”

    I do think he can feed himself, outside of that, I have my doubts…

    “and is comparatively no worse in any way whatsoever than any other commissioner”

    he’s much worse because he can’t even show up on time for his job!

  • Guest99 says:

    You should care who he consults. Wouldn’t you want to know if someone was voting for personal gain? BTW: If you ask any unemployed movie person what they do you wouldn’t be able to stop them from telling you what they worked on and on and on…

  • John says:

    Mr. Berger has proven to be irresponsible, untruthful about his past employment, and above all else really lacking in intelligence.
    He may be a nice guy but that does not make him a leader.

    He has done nothing but cause chaos with his:
    1. outrageous accusations,

    2.His unwillingness to attend meetings in a timely manner, and being totally unprepared when he does show up on time.

    3. His deceitful explanations of his background.

    Mr. Berger’s lack of professionalism is an insult to every tax paying member of New Hanover County and Berger has made us the laughing stock of the surrounding counties.

  • Scott Pickey says:

    Schultz – thanks for leaving the comment.

    To my knowledge, NO local media outlet can get ANY information out of Mr. Berger. For example, we’ve all asked him what he does for a living – he’s dodged all of our questions.

    But he DID tell us – and the voters – he runs a consulting business. Really? That turned out to be a lie – since he’s been drawing unemployment for at least the past six months – maybe even longer. And people who own businesses don’t pay themselves unemployment when times are tough.

    I even personally invited him last week to sit down with us and show us where we’ve “fabricated” (his words) stories about him. I’ve given him a week to come over. That invitation extends through Thursday afternoon. He PROMISED me to my face that he would meet with me.

    As of 2:00 p.m. Wednesday I have yet to hear from him.

    I also challenge you to look through our archives here on the website and show me where we’ve been “slinging mud.” Please help me also understand where holding our public officials accountable is considered “slinging mud.”

    You and I may have to agree to disagree, but hopefully you’ll meet me in the middle and admit … Mr. Berger preaches transparency but apparently doesn’t practice it.

    Scott Pickey
    WWAY News Director

  • Guest-of-the-day says:

    I thought maybe Berger was packing an AK-47 to council meetings. What grade school writing skills…

  • nhcs citizen says:

    Berger is a disgrace and needs to resign immediately and take his self-serving idealogy with him. If he can’t even show up for meetings on time and show respect for the office he holds, no wonder he can’t hold down a job.

  • Guest-of-the-day says:

    to be paying Berger illegally? If you followed all these “news” reports, you’d know that he worked for the federal government. In any case, your case is against the EDS, not Berger – unless you think he bypasses normal requirements – somehow – to qualify? Maybe he “jacks them up” every two weeks with his “big gun”???

  • Guest Apu says:

    I don’t know how unemployment works in DC, but In NC, a business owner generally doesn’t qualify for unemployment. It was designed for employees who draw a paycheck who are laid-off. A business owner often doesn’t draw a salary. And if he does, how can he lay-off himself just to get the state to give him some money? If that were the case, I could just stop paying myself a salary due to “lack of work” and continue to draw equity distributions from my company, all the while collecting unemployment. Pretty shady.

  • Guest1118 says:

    with EVERY word that WilmWatcher posted. It’s obvious that you all have looked at Brian Berger with WAY more scrutiny than any other elected official in this area. Why don’t you look into the backgrounds of Saffo and RC Soles a little more? Hmmm? You’ve determined that BB is an easy target and generates a lot of comments here so there you go……

  • Doug E says:

    Sorry so many have a selective memory. I remember many times when Thompson and Barfield had articles written about them here and on other sites that showed them in a negative light. Where was all the uproar then?

    I’ve seen many comments posted here from individuals in the past speaking down at folks collecting unemployment benefits. Funny how those same folks somehow suddenly have a change of heart when they find out Berger is collecting.

    Sorry that it’s your guy in the hot seat right now. I guess when one campaigns on certain issues, only to find out he does not practice what he preaches, that tends to draw some heat.

    Thompson came across as a fool and a bully for challenging another man to step out into the parking lot, but it would have been even worse if he ran his campaign on a platform of ending parking lot scuffles.

  • Guest Apu says:

    I was under the impression that Mr. Berger was a self-employed consultant, since most consultants are hired as independent contractors for a limtited engagement and do not become employees of their clients.

  • yoyo says:

    WWAY that’s a very good question! Berger has # 1 Top Gun Super Lawyer representing him. Inquiring minds want to know, quick!!

  • Guest Today says:

    Our County Commission has turned into a FARCE! It’s hilarious. The best soap opera in town!

  • Schultz says:

    I would say that the above comment is due to two factors….our County’s own questionable actions and the way that WWAY tries to sling mud at every opportunity. I’m all for accountability, but there are two sides to a story. If they’d have been fair from the start, instead of having some personal vendetta against one or more people, then maybe they could get the information to complete their job of reporting the facts. Just my objective opinion based on what I’ve seen/read.

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    Remember, unemployment is to compensate for a loss of income, not a loss of assets.

  • Roddey M. Brown III says:

    Some of our greatest voices in our legal system don’t always cost “Big Money” — they speak/represent because the issue at hand is such a mis-justice that only “BIG GUNS will be heard.

  • stm says:

    He’s even harder to believe than that Anthony chick down in Florida.

  • MkyJct Voter says:

    This is just mudslinging. I’m a Democrat but what a hatchet job. Why such hounding of Brian Berger! Go after some of these other politicians. Jason Thompson and Saffo for instance. That white elephant civic center that is going drain the city budget for years is an example. Julia Boseman and R C Soles are others who got free rides. So Brian Berger was unemployed an got compensation from DC; let them investigate if he did something wrong. WWAY needs to quit getting rid of all their good tv anchors. Something is wrong there. There is too much turnover in personnel at WWAY. Quit beating on Berger’s house.

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