WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The relationship between New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger and the rest of the board has been sour for quite some time, and this morning’s meeting did not help improve it.
A vote to transfer thousands of dollars in private donations to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority to help county residents without water seemed to be a no-brainer to the majority of county commissioners. Two we spoke with say they just don’t understand why Berger would vote against it.
“I don’t know why he would oppose people donating money,” Commissioner Rick Catlin said. “I mean, I didn’t understand why he opposed it.”
Commissioner Jason Thompson said, “People trusted the county to collect their donations and then to provide it to those who needed assistance, so how could I not vote for that?”
Berger was the only commissioner who voted against transferring $10,000 in private donations to CFPUA’s fund to help customers with their water bills.
“It doesn’t seem like the right comprehensive way to approach a major, major problem,” Berger said.
“Basically what he says by voting no is good-hearted citizens in our community who donate money to a charity through the county, ah we’re going to keep your money and not give it to the charity. That doesn’t make sense,” Thompson said.
According to Berger, it makes perfect sense. His explanation was that the county should instead work to lower CFPUA’s rates so that fewer people need the donations.
“If you don’t have to subsidize something that is necessary by being fiscally responsible so that you’re not putting undue strain and financial pressure on the citizens and tax payers, that is ultimately what the goal should be,” Berger said.
But back in April, Berger who served on the CFPUA’s board, voted in favor of changing water tiers and raising their rates.
“It didn’t make sense to me, and he can say all day long, ‘I didn’t vote for it,’ but there’s written records, there’s video. You can see it. He certainly did,” Thompson said.
Thompson says this is not the first time Berger has flip-flopped on issues. He says Berger’s actions are inconsistent with his comments; an ongoing theme since he started on the board.
“If you don’t understand what you’re voting on, then you either need to get up to speed, or you need to go somewhere else, because it is far too important to not understand your yes and no votes,” Thompson said.
We tried to talk to Commissioner Berger about his vote today. He has not returned our messages.