WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A day after his fellow commissioners called for his resignation, New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger held a news conference of his own this evening. Despite what his colleagues want, a defiant Berger said he would not resign and blamed the other commissioners for the distractions caused by his personal life becoming public.
“I’m not gonna let individuals on the board, who for quite some time have had different ideas about the direction New Hanover County is going dictate to me whether or not I should be on the board,” Berger said. “The reality is they were not among my supporters, but it is the people who elected me I have a responsibility to serve, as well as the people who did not vote for me. I take that responsibility seriously. I don’t do a perfect job. I’m human. Fallible. I believe I have been an effective commissioner and will be more effective moving forward.”
Berger said his presence on the commission has sparked debate and protected taxpayers against potentially harmful policies. He said without him he has no confidence that would continue.
“I know I do a very effective job when it comes to informing the public and making sure the public is aware of decision being made that affect their lives and their wallets,” Berger said.
Berger also blamed his fellow board members for the distractions affecting the commission, claiming they have tried to exploit his personal issues for political gain.
“In hindsight, I’ve made some pretty stupid decisions in my personal life, but the constant hand-wringing and attention some other members of the board have devoted to my private life has in fact created a distraction the actual events did not create,” Berger said.
Berger did apologize to the Wilmington Police Department and Chief Ralph Evangelous for saying the department lied on a report about the suicide attempt at Berger’s home last week.
“If my e-mail was worded poorly, I apologize,” Berger said.
Berger also explained why he did not address his recent personal issues at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting. He said that discussing his personal problems was not appropriate for a regular commission meeting, and that he was not going to drag down the board from discussing the issues on the agenda by bringing them up. He said he always planned to talk about them after Tuesday’s meeting, despite the fact he told WWAY Monday he might talk about them at Tuesday’s meeting. Berger also told WWAY Monday he was considering resigning, but wanted to talk to the other commissioners first.
“I can say unequivocally that that week was an aberration,” Berger said of the two run-ins with police last week. “If I was to resign because of some issues in my personal life, which I am addressing in private where they belong, then isn’t valid to ask for the resignation of commissioners who threaten violence against other elected officials and members of the general public?”
Berger was clearly referring to incidents involving Jason Thompson and Jonathan Barfield several months ago. Thompson invited Leland Mayor Walter Futch into the parking lot during a meeting on transportation issues. New Hanover County School Board members claimed Barfield threatened them over issues they disagreed with him on.
Berger said he is insulted by comments Barfield has made that he worries about threats to safety from Berger. Berger said he has no history of violence. He said while violence may be “the style” of other commissioners, it is not his.
Berger asked for forgiveness from citizens after apologizing for exposing them to “some aberrant and erratic behavior in my personal life.”
“I’m not a very good politician. I’m not a politician at all. I don’t have the charisma politicians usually have or the articulation, but I am sincere and genuine, and my comments this evening are just that,” Berger said.
Despite the apology Berger refused to explain what led to him winding up in the hospital after the reported suicide attempt. He also refused to answer questions many residents and county employees have raised about how the judgment he has shown in his personal life may translate to his ability to govern.