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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — It’s finally pay back time for New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger.

Berger paid a portion of the more than $400 he owes the county in travel expenses, but the story does not stop there.

After several discussions and e-mails between county staff and Berger, the commissioner has paid less than half of his travel debt. To finally move on, the county manager wants to waive the remaining debt, but commissioners say not so fast.

After Monday’s New Hanover County Commission meeting, Berger handed over $160 to County Manager Chris Coudriet. According to an e-mail from Coudriet, Berger refused to pay the remaining $287 saying he is not obligated to, based on his review of an August invoice.

“My concern is that he doesn’t have the resources to pay that balance,” County Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield said.

In his e-mail, Coudriet told commissioners he plans to ask the county finance staff to write off Berger’s remaining debt in an effort to move forward. But commissioners are not too happy with this.

“We voted on this unanimously as a board, and if we’re going to waive any remaining costs, we need to vote on that,” Commissioner Rick Catlin said.

Earlier this year, the board unanimously approved a travel policy, requiring commissioners to pay off any debt before being allowed to travel again.

“He needs to really pay back the money that he owes to the county in its entirety for the policy to be fulfilled,” Barfield said.

Though commissioners we spoke with want to move on, they say any changes must be decided by the board and not the county manager.

“I do understand Chris’s desire to move forward,” Catlin said. “I know that it has caused staff a lot of stress, but we do need to vote on it.”

Wednesday night, Commissioner Berger said the county is out-right lying about the debt amount and says he has sacrificed more than any elected official in Southeastern North Carolina.

“I said, half joking when I was running that I would eat out of garbage cans and live on the streets with my dog if I had to in order to maintain my integrity and fulfill the responsibilities of the office,” Berger says. “I didn’t realize how close I would come to that, but it still holds true that I think public service should involve sacrifice.”

Comment on this Story

  • Indi

    If the county decides to write off the debt, Berger should receive a 1099 for the amount that was written off.

  • Peyton Garrett

    Touche’ ChefnSurf.

  • windsnake6969

    They already did take his property.

    Didn’t you read the articles on his pathetic foreclosure?

    Guess he didn’t have the means to pay for that either.

  • Guest51

    The expenses are hotel and confernece fees, if memory serves me correctly. A county employee probaly booked the hotel and paid the conference regristration fees using county money. Which is fine if Berger would have shown up for the conferences, but he blew them off. That is why he owes the county money.

  • Wilmington Observer

    Mr. Berger owes me (tax payer) the outstanding $287.16 and I don’t authorize anyone to forgive this, outstanding debt. If I owed the county an outstanding balance I would have my wages garnished and my property seized, for auction. Mr. Berger should be held to a higher standard than those for whom he was elected to represent.

    Wilmington Observer

  • Guest 10101

    for and then not showing up to use them. NHC finally said in effect “If you’re going to continue to waste our money on something you’re not even using, then YOU pay for it!”

    This wouldn’t even be an issue if he hadn’t contiuned to do this repeatedly.

  • ChefnSurf

    … bad behavior.

    I’m sure Mr. Coudriet, along with the majority of NHC, would be happy if Berger just magically disappeared, but that’s not going to happen. If he’s allowed to write off his debt, the whole process will just start all over again with Berger blowing off even more lodging reservations on the County’s dime.

    Keep the remaining debt on the books with no more discussion. Keep the current travel policy on the books with no more discussion.

    Berger has become about as useful to NHC as an air horn is to a fish. The benefit of Berger representing NHC at meetings outside of the County is even less and possibly even detrimental. If, for the small sum of only $287, Berger will be effectively be prevented from attending these conferences, NHC will be actually be getting a pretty good deal.

    Forgive the debt and it won’t be too long before Berger will have blown even more County money on blown reservations, etc. Regardless of why Berger acts the way he does, NHC would be just as nutty to throw more good money on top of bad.

  • Missy

    If these “travel expenses” had been necessary for his elected position, wouldn’t he have been reimbursed for them?

    Is this a case of him pocketing “extra” money that he couldn’t produce reciepts to prove his expense?

    I guess I just don’t understand how he can owe travel expenses.

  • Guest1971

    He owes travel expenses due to a policy instituted by the Commissioners that states if a member incurs travel expenses (pre-pays a conference, hotel deposits, etc) and then does not travel/attend the event they are liable to pay those back to the county. This prevents them from signing up for things and then backing out at the last minute becuase they have a hang-nail or need to get their haircut or some other equally lame excuse.

  • jj

    I can’t beleive this “”My concern is that he doesn’t have the resources to pay that balance,” County Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield said.”

    There are people out there that can’t afford to pay their taxes either. Take his property like you would everyone else..

  • Guester

    The expenses may have been necessary, but he was irresponsible. He would make reservations and have the county pay registration fees, then not show up. Taxpayers are now responsible for his irresponsibility. Both the city and the county have travel policies in place (Berger even voted for the County policy) of how much they are allowed to spend on travel and reimbursing for expenses that are not covered, like maybe spending too much on a meal. This is supposed to help keep everyone straight. Berger is breaking the rule he voted for.

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