WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County Commissioners have removed Commissioner Brian Berger from most of the community boards he sits on. The Commission made the decision at its Agenda Briefing this afternoon. It’s still pending an official vote at Monday’s County Commission meeting.
Berger said he was shocked by what happened and felt ambushed by his fellow commissioners.
“This clearly was not about policy. It was about a personal slight,” Berger said. “That’s just a horrible reflection on the County Commission that the other commissioners would put their personal animosities ahead of the citizens of the county.”
Berger remains on the Legion Sports Complex Commission and the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Advisory Committee. Commissioner Jason Thompson pointed out both of those bodies include another county commissioner.
“We’ve had multiple discussions about his behavior, about the way his behavior reflects on this board,” Thompson said after the meeting. “And then I know certain boards have talked to him like they’ve talked to us saying, ‘You are gonna have to take him off of here, because he’s not effective.'”
Berger was clearly upset that he was removed from most of the boards he was part of, including CFPUA, DSS, Wilmington Downtown Inc. and Smart Start of New Hanover County. Berger said the leaders of the boards from which he was removed would speak to how effective he’s been to those groups. Thompson disagrees.
“Two chairmen of two of the boards and multiple members of the boards contacted me directly asking for Mr. Berger to be removed, because he’s not effective, he’s not prepared. He shows up late, if he shows up at all,” Thompson said. “If they’re going to get a commissioner, they want to get one that will get something done, and they don’t feel like he’s the one.”
We tried to contact the heads of the groups Berger was pulled from. CFPUA’s Jim Quinn said he would not comment on Berger’s involvement, and that the decision to remove him from the CFPUA was up to the County Commission.
“Clearly it’s the decision of the commissioners,” WDI Executive Director John Hinnant said. “We look forward to seeing who they appoint. Brian was good and active when he showed up, but WDI wants someone who can make all the meetings.”
Berger said he missed several WDI meetings because they conflicted with the DSS meetings. Commissioners decided instead of Berger being part of WDI, they would appoint a county staff member as their representative.
Complaints about Berger’s attendance record are nothing new. He routinely has been late to County Commission and other meetings. Berger arrived just after today’s Agenda Briefing started, but in time for the discussion and votes about representation on commissions and boards.
Following the discussion, Commission Chair Ted Davis asked Berger if he planned to challenge the unofficial decisions at Monday night’s meeting. Berger said he didn’t know why he should bother if the other commissioners were just going to vote against him.
“They’ve ambushed me 4-1, just as they have since I was elected,” Berger said after the meeting. “There’s no point in fighting something out when the outcome is already certain to be 4-1.”
Davis decided that for now the assignments would be placed on the commission’s consent agenda Monday as originally planned.
The move to remove Berger from the community groups comes three weeks after Berger was arrested for a second time this year. Berger was arrested just before Thanksgiving after he attended a Community Action Inc. meeting, which violated a protective order his ex-girlfriend took out on him. Heather Blaylock is a Head Start teacher and works at the Community Action Inc. building. Berger is due back in court next month on the violation charge.
Police also responded to Berger’s home in August after Blaylock called 911 and reported Berger had threatened suicide. In the wake of that incident, fellow commissioners held a news conference calling for Berger to resign. In his own news conference later that week, he refused to resign and blamed the other commissioners for using his personal problems for their political gain.