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FIRST ON 3: Berger may have misused confidential record protection

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Long a vocal champion of transparency in government, New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger may have violated state law regarding open records.

Thursday morning, Berger sent an e-mail (see text below) to New Hanover County Clerk Sheila Schult asking for any records regarding discussion among other commissioners about removing Berger from community boards. In his e-mail he continued to assert that the move last month was illegal and hurt the citizens of New Hanover County by replacing a commissioner on certain boards with "underlings." Berger marked the message confidential, which protects it from being viewed publicly on the county's e-mail server and lumps it in with other e-mails considered not to be public record.

When Schult forwarded the e-mail to the other commissioners because of the nature of Berger's request for information, Commissioner Jason Thompson noted that he did not see how it could be considered confidential.

"Berger has willingly and intentionally tried to abuse said statute. I will not engage in illegal emails marked confidential," Thompson wrote.

Schult responded, "Commissioner Thompson, after checking with our County Attorney concerning the appropriate subjects to be marked as 'confidential' with the following email not falling in any of these categories, has asked me to forward this email to you as it contains a request for information (last paragraph) that involves the commissioners. I have responded to Commissioner Berger that to my knowledge no such information exists and therefore, I cannot provide it."

Berger has not responded to multiple requests from WWAY in the last day for comment.

From: Berger, Brian
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2012 11:32 AM
To: Schult, Sheila
Cc: Crowell, Kym; Elmore, Teresa; Shell, Bruce
Subject: CONFIDENTIAL

Sheila and Co.,

And I don't mean you personally, but don't have the time or knowledge to address all recipients or lose the focus of this e-mail. I was elected to represent the people, no different than any one of the four other commissioners. The personal, spiteful and resultingly negative impact on the citizens of New Hanover County by, in an unprecedented, unjustifiable (regardless of what Tricia Vance or people who have spent more than five years accusing me of blocking out the sun), extremely dangerous maneuver to abandon publicly funded, community-based organizations completely or to try to hurt me and denigrate me by suggesting staff reporting to the County Manager, and in some instances multiple supervisors before the County Manager is a disservice to the people of this county and the organizations (many are not pleased) disrespected and belittled by the short-sighted actions of the County Board in its approach to "personal" and political differences, with me, having nothing to do with my participation in those departments and agencies this past year, unlike some of my four colleagues who have violated the very spirit of the County's Ethics Policy, not to mention the illegal aspects of those actions, and joke of an explanation defending breaking the law...well I still have a job to do.

You can "marginalize" me and cut me out of all meetings and access to information, but this has gone too far...I will fulfill my duty by being as involved as possible in every Board, demanding answers seeking justification for cutting some of the 30+ Boards traditionally assigned a Commissioner to serve on the group's Board, as free from multilayers of filters as possible.

If there's a single email contact group I will gladly request agendas and minutes for every one of them in a timely manner, direct and unfiltered. However, in making such a major, unprecedented and in part, illegal, move to "punish" me (but really hurting the citizens), the County and staff have overstepped boundaries.

I'm not interested in political games, backstabbing, etc...but I am interested in doing the job I was elected to do...and that now requires all substantive information from every agency represented by a Commissioner or designee in 2011 for 2012. It necessitates my being present at more meetings on issues of general interest (Stadiums, Solid Waste, etc).

The who, what, why, where, when for these meetings I am requesting in writing now until further notice. I'm quiet and shy and I know I can come off as a jerk even though that's not my intention at all, but I dont intimidate or take kindly to bullying and payback for resisting and acting independently in accordance with my conscience and commitments.

If there isn't a single email list for those 30+ contacts it is the role of the County Manager, if I'm not mistaken, to facilitate my request for information in a timely manner. This is not to be confused with the meeting schedule I had requested prior to Christmas...I understand that takes time. Please don't feel rushed I know you've got much more on your plate as well. I ask nothing more than you do the best you can even if its done a little at a time, piecemeal. You've done a great job thus far Sheila, I have no complaints, and no concerns.

Lastly, I would like a list of all meetings and conversations and documents pertaining to kicking me off Boards without cause. Though legal, in some instances, perhaps, anytime a majority by sole virtue of numerical superiority squash minority dissent its a major, substantial threat to the integrity and expectations of our system of government. Replacing a duly elected official with an underling or unerling's underling poses a threat that warrants some review. With that in mind, please send me in writing the dates (inc. conference calls), participants, documents, "action items" and related materials regarding kicking me off Boards.

Thank You,

Brian

(This being email I realize the tone here could easily be misconstrued as angry or something similar, but please know that's not the case...I apologize if it reads that way...but that's not the intention. It's serious, matter of fact, emotionless...but please don't take it as angry or critical - it was not meant to be critical of anyone copied, in any way. I appreciate the fine work you all do, but I do need answers sometimes...this being one of those times!)

Brian M. Berger

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" You Can't Fix Stupid!" Berger MUST GO!!

As I have been saying all along since before the election, we must check Brian Berger out, check his background and not rely on worthless rhetoric before voting him in because now it looks as if we are stuck with this NUT JOB for 3 more years!

Berger

I'm starting to wonder if there is a townwide conspiracy towards Berger. I realize he's a screwup and doesnt belong in government, but it just seems like there is a story about how bad he is every time I open this website. Yes these are local contributors writing these things but theres an editor that keeps letting these stories in like EVERYDAY. If it is a conspiracy, you guys are making it pretty obvious.

You read about him every day

You read about him every day because he does something new and stupid every day. Not because of a conspiracy by the news.

The Berger File:

What in the world did Mr. Berger just try to convey in that rambling essay. What did He ask for? It will make Your hair hurt trying to read it and add the perceived nasal twang of his whining voice it is too much. I would much rather see his explanation of speeding through a residential neighborhood on a revoked license. Heck, He didn't need a cab as it was His neighborhood and was only a few blocks from his home. Please Mr. Berger explain this away. Whose fault this time?

,Re-Elect Brian Berger

Don't criticize Mr. Berger. Sure he has his faults but he works for the people of New Hanover County. It wasn't his fault that his ex-girlfriend was wacko and did him wrong. She just used him. He tried to make it right and she did him wrong. He has to deal with racist like Jonathan Barfield who uses the race card and cut Mr. Berger off before he can do the right thing. Mr. Berger should call the FBI and have an investigation into the behavior of New Hanover County Government. If you keep up with the news and see what Brian Berger has been doing, you would notice that he is a hard working man and everyone puts him down. And about his license, he was not notified that he had a fee he had to pay, big whoop, it happens, but it is good now. Everyone speeds in Wilmington and if you travel alot you will get pulled over sooner or later. Why are they even thinking about his house being repoed? That Is nobody's business but him. Can WWAY find some real news? Why does it take 2-3 years to investigate R.C. Soles. Why aren't the "Investigative Reporters" (Cracky) trying to find out who killed the guy on River Road? If the politicians want they can their buddies audit you every years at tax time to make you look bad so that way the good ol' boys can stay in office. Let him do his job and quit criticizing a good man.

Larry

You are one frightening man.

Amen!! I agree with Larry!

Amen!! I agree with Larry!

Really Brian?

That was a pitiful attempt to disguise yourself! ONLY YOU BRIAN would know your license was restored, AND that your house is in foreclosure, you're a moron! Reading your comment I can hear that weasel voice its like a file on my front teeth!!!! I bet you spent a lot of time upside down in a trash can as a child! Say's who? Say's Kblue!

What's that Brian?

Really Mr. Berger do you really believe the stuff you write! Your arrogance and delusional disorder is just astonishing. Do you think we are so dumb not to know this is your post?

The Berger File:

Is that You Brian? trying to explain away your latest fiasco. Mr. Berger was not notified by the state of a "fee" he had not paid. How would anyone else know that Brian? Call in the FBI? Better be careful what You wish for. Hard worker? You attend meetings which by the way You are never prepared for, and sit like a bump on a log. I keep up with the news and see You in the Mugshots or committing one bonehead act after another. You sir are a washed up shell of a little man. Now a couple of steps away from being homeless. Your childish pranks, your ineptness at anything to afford you a living and denial of any wrongdoing on Your part have now caught up with You. You are done. Perhaps Ben McCoy will let You sleep on His couch if the state doesn't give You a room for a few months. Enough of this toad.

De-Elect Berger is more like it

You are an absolute idiot and probably the reason this wacko is a county commissioner. His ex did not make him cut himself and send her pictures saying he was going to hurt himself. She did not make him go to a meeting where he "didn't know" that it was where she worked. You don't date somebody for 2 years and not know where they work. If you remember back when all of this started in the summer the commissioners were there for him and did not shy away from him. I believe it was Jason Thompson who picked him up from jail. He keeps crying corruption and making claims but has yet to show one bit of proof. I'm a regular, blue collar worker and this guy is NOT what we want to represent us. As for his house getting foreclosed (they don't repo houses), I do feel sorry for him being a victim of the economy as so many others are. However others find a way to make ends meet or work out deals as well. If he can not keep his personal life in order how is he supposed to keep the business of the county in order?

Threats & Bullying

Did anybody else realize he called those appointed to committees instead of him "underlings or underling's underlings"? How disrespectful can this man get? Most of those appointed (if I'm not mistaken) were county employees. No matter how high or low on the totem pole they are, they still work hard for little pay to help keep this county running and also serving the residents of this county. To call them an underling, regardless if it's the county manager or the guy who empty's the trash at a park, is more disrespectful than ANYTHING he has done. Looks like Berger really is the person that he claims he is trying to fight. RESIGN!!!!!!

Berger

Oh my gosh, has anyone taken notice that the entire 1st paragraph is one sentence? This guy definitely has problems, he needs to be squashed and let go. I can't imagine him believing that his opinion, given in any meeting (that he might show up at) would be taken into consideration. Thank god he has not reproduced (that I am aware of). The last thing we need are more baby Berger's. He kind of reminds me of Thompson, saying and doing what they want since they know they are not going to run or even have the possibility of being re-elected.

Yes, he has problems - but

Yes, he has problems - but it's also obvious that the board has, from the beginning, cast him aside. The folks on the board need to 'man up' and include him in discussion and dialogue instead of forming a clique and excluding him as is so common in SE North Carolina. It's this type of behavior that he's railing against. Unfortunately, it's such a problem for him that he can't function properly as a result. He does need to get his life together, but I would also say that there should be voices like his in public office. Voices of 'regular' people that have worked just as hard as those that became 'successful' by way of the 'good ol' boy' network, and doing so on the backs of others.

The best part

"And I don't mean you personally, but don't have the time or knowledge to address all recipients or lose the focus of this e-mail."

Other than his commissioner position, isn't he currently unemployed? So he has plenty of time on his hands but certainly doesn't have any knowledge.

Being bullied??

I don't live in NHC. I don't personally know Berger, so I can't like or dislike him. I do think he needs to resign and seek help of some form. However, if the news keeps putting every little tid-bit of information and revealing his every mis-guided mistake he may be pushed to do something personally drastic and the next thing everyone here will be reading is about his funeral! Desperate people do desperate things... just curious...wouldn't this kind of fall under bullying? only, it doesn't take place by your schoolyard peers, it takes place by your media peers? Same difference, only adults.

Curious to see if WWAY allows this to be posted...seeing as how it's NOT slaughtering anyone...

Bergermiester

He does appear to be "the gift that keeps on giving".

answers now

everyone is fed up with Berger and his drama....I cannot belive that it has been in the news this long, and not one news agency has answered the question "how do we get rid of him?", legally I should add.

he is not going to resign, the commissioners cannot vote him out, and the voters cannot call for a referendum....I cannot believe that is no way in the state of NC to impeach a sitting county commissioner. Please someone tell me who needs to be contacted and what can be done.

obviously the voters of the county made a mistake, is there really no way to reverse the actions. I know that this would give you less news to report, but a gentle nudge in the right direction would be appreciated.

Removing an elected official

I feel everyone's pain in getting Berger removed,however it should be difficult to have an elected official removed, otherwise our votes wouldn't mean much. I remember voting the election and I saw many folks who were on a mission to vote a straight ticket to punish the democrat congress. I hope everyone takes a lesson that some research on candidates is so important. Voting is a very personal choice and a very important part of our freedom. Still, sometimes I hold my nose and vote across party lines if I feel a candidate is more qualified....especially a local candidate. Its going to be a long 3 years!

Removing a commissioner

Fed up,

Thanks for your comment. We have actually many times reported on the few options to remove a sitting commissioner. Other than resignation or death, the only way to remove him is if he is convicted of a felony or if the legislature passes a bill allowing for a recall.

Thanks
KEVIN

felony

Is him breaking a domestic violence protection order a felony? I would think it is because this is the very behavior that gets women killed. However, we are dealing with NC laws. Is his disregard of the order a felony?

Could somebody please help

Could somebody please help me to figure out who the bigger idiot(s) is(are). Is it Berger OR his "sponsors"?

Consolidate!!!

Geez, Brian, just leave NHC politics and run for office in Leland. At least then all the nuts will be in the same bag.

For God's sake no one was

For God's sake no one was half this upset when the Star News found 36,000 hidden emails marked confidential from the city council that had no business being marked as such. Please apply one standard to all elected officials or STFU. Thank you.

Hooray for Transparency

Hey Mr. McCoy,

Speaking of things that have no business being confidential: Can we see your campaign finance reports from your failed run for city council in 2009?

I think it's only fair that we apply the same standards to all individuals running for public office. Don't you?

Thanks,
Andrew Jones

On and On and On

And it just goes on...and on...and on...and on. Good grief! Will it EVER stop?

How can anyone read Berger's gibberish and acquaint him with being a duly elected County Commissioner? He just sounds like a whiney, holier than thou, paranoid mental case...still believing he is justified in everything he does. His biggest delusion is believing that the citizens of New Hanover County still believe him to be effective in the office to which he was unfortunately elected.

Please, somebody, take away his phone, computer, car, and razor blades so he can't damage himself any more....on second thought, let him keep them.

flake

FLAKE Berger.