ONLY ON 3: NC law doesn’t address harassment claims against office holder

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Submitted: Wed, 05/22/2013 - 3:59am
Updated: Wed, 05/22/2013 - 12:08pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County Commissioners say harassment claims and safety concerns by staff were a big reason they voted Brian Berger off the commission yesterday. But there are still questions about whether the process of amotion was the proper way to deal with those issues.

A spokeswoman from the University of North Carolina School of Government says there is no precedent for Berger being removed from office regardless of staff complaints.

After months of build up, the Berger amotion hearing came to a head Monday afternoon when he was removed from office by a 3-2 vote.

“I think there is just a collective sigh of relief at the County Commission office with the ladies that work over there,” Commission Chair Woody White said Tuesday. “They were in a constant fear or state of siege so to speak not knowing when he might show up or what he might be capable of doing.”

Much of the county’s evidence in the amotion hearing centered around claims of harassment by Berger toward county employees.

In a typical work environment, if someone felt harassed they could file a complaint to be followed up by a human resources manager. But because Berger was elected by the voters, he is not technically a county employee. As a public servant he is not held to the same standard.

“There is nothing in the General Statutes governing cities or counties or other local governments that provide any specific authority to discipline a board member,” said Frayda Bluestein, an associate dean at the UNC School of Government.

Commissioner Jonathan Barfield openly questioned the legality of the amotion hearing yesterday saying he felt a voter recall would have been a better route. However White says the board did what was best for the citizens of New Hanover County.

“The only other things that could have been done was nothing,” White said. “That would have perpetuated the status quo, and that would have continued to expose us not only to liability but to a consistent stake of concern and worry, and that wasn’t an option.”

Berger has 30 days to decide if he will appeal the amotion. In the meantime, White says the commission will move forward as a four-member board.


  • GuestTWil9756 says:

    “I think there is just a collective sigh of relief at the County Commission office with the ladies that work over there,” Commission Chair Woody White said Tuesday. “They were in a constant fear or state of siege so to speak not knowing when he might show up or what he might be capable of doing.”

    Seriously? Read a book!! A state of siege is when one is surrounded by enemies and forced to come out. Brian Berger was forced to publicly out himself as Autistic by a group of people who either do not understand the disorder or do not tolerate it. Oh the irony.

    BTW, Woody, Autism is not remotely similar or comparable to schizophrenia or paranoid delusional psychosis. To suggest as much discredits and disparages Autistic people everywhere and is only a reflection of your own ignorance.

  • Guest2020 says:

    With all of the media coverage that has been given to Berger and his issues, why is it that we didn’t hear of him harassing county employees until Woody White got into office? And given that other claims against Berger have proven to be false, how can we be assured that these allegations are true? After all, he did use the hotel rooms and he didn’t threaten the governor. And the commission did not do what was best for New Hanover County, they did what was best for Woody White.

  • Vog46 says:

    No you’ve done it – you’ve gone and interjected common sense into this circus.
    Oh the GOP board Police are gonna come after you……….
    “Oh he needed to go”
    “Oh he’s an embarrassment”
    “Oh he missed meetings”
    “Oh he beat his girlfriend”

    All true – and none of it an impeachable offense – especially not impeachable by Woody White and his Cabal of miscreants…..

    It’s OUR JOB to vote people out of office.
    Don’t have the ability to recall? Then do it next election.
    Unless Berger died or went to prison or resigned.
    He hasn’t doe any of that……..


  • SurfCityTom says:

    White, his band of fellow Commissioners, and their attorney can not read.

    They clearly did not read the amotion documents and follow the proceedures required.

    They do not have the authority to remove him.

    They present their case in a public forum. He presents his and has the opportunity to rebut their “facts”.

    It then goes before a superior court judge who renders a decision.

    Until, and unless that decision comes down against Berger, he remains a Commissioner.

    Forrest Gump might have a comment or two here.

    If White is a businessman in the private sector, he would be called before a Board of Directors to explain his actions.

  • Ol' Gump Meister says:

    “Forrest…Politics is like a pack o’ dogs. Unless you’re the lead politician in the group, the view is always the same. Not unlike a pack of dogs, they also put their noses up to what they see ( )*( ).”


  • DollarDivots says:

    This was an arrogant and unconstitutional act, and has exposed the citizens of NHC to liability.

  • Vog46 says:

    Is the problem with the amotion process:

    “In a typical work environment, if someone felt harassed they could file a complaint to be followed up by a human resources manager. But because Berger was elected by the voters, he is not technically a county employee. As a public servant he is not held to the same standard.”

    Elected officials are granted many many exemptions to laws.
    However, Woody White made a glaring error. Censure is not “nothing” – it is a political tool to render a Commissioner’s vote as being impotent.
    IF harassment was THE critical issue, AND it doesn’t apply to Berger then Woody is pursuing a process that is doomed to fail.
    If it does fail then Woody White committed a more grievous error – he committed an error in judgement and expended too much time and effort in a blatantly political maneuver to rid the board of someone – rather than allowing the democratic process to do it for him.
    Yes you could say that attorney’s fees were “free” but THAT is a misnomer because the County Attorney could have been doing other county business.
    At the “end of the day” this will be costly to New Hanover County.
    It will become a historical example of un-necessary spending, of political expediency, and the usurping of the voters authority.
    Yes, Berger should not be a county commissioner but it is NOT Woody Whites “job” to remove him. By law the only people that CAN do that are the voters – and since WE do not have a recall process then WE have to wait until the next election. This is not Woody Whites authority – it is ours.
    Mr. White needs to be subjected to an amotion hearing himself. He spent more money than he accused Berger of failing to pay back already.


  • Rick Wilson says:

    It would appear that Woody White is a puppet. Would he or his “puppeteers” care to reveal whom they have decided should replace Mr. Berger? Is the only criteria used in the selection of this individual their willingness to vote to eliminate the county’s Special Use Permit? What other plans will the “unholy trinity” unveil as they have conspired to take complete and total control of the New Hanover County Commission?

    The people that are turning a blind eye to how unjust this whole process was because they do not like Brian Berger need to consider this. Woody White and 2 people that were not elected to the County Commission will now make all the decisions for the next year and a half. Are dictators are now able to rise and assume control in a Democracy? Persecution and suspension of individual rights reminds me of something that happened many years ago that led to a world war….Citizens should never stand by and let elected officials by pass the law for their own personal gain. Every single time they are allowed to get away with this type of behavior, they feel they become more insulated from the laws the rest of the people are required to follow…….

  • burgerboy says:

    that old woodrow white and john garfield and that other fella should be impeached and exiled to live in the swamp in pender county for besmirching the will of the voters in this unconstitiuional manner, and also brian burger has the autism and he should be able to sue them for discriminating against his disability, if he was crippled in a wheelchair they wouldn’t kick him off of there, and if he was in such a state of fear about him he should be a real man and not be so scared of everyone, i bet he’s afraid of little kitten’s and puppy’s too, he needs to get him some just for men too to put on that white gourd of his, or just for boys since he’s afraid of kitten’s and puppy dogs, ha!

  • BeachGirl84 says:

    Please stop you rants. He was not kicked out because of any medical condition (autism), he was kicked out due to he was not doing his job along with many other things!!! Its simple as that. My mother is Mentally unstable so I do have a right to chime in on this. This nation is screwed up because people cant admit blame as in his case, to say he needs to sue is just plan old stupid. Plain and simple, he broke the rules, he was not able to perform his job, he caused stress to many.. it’s cut and dry that he needs to move on with his life ( and fix up the life he has ). Please step down off your soap box.

  • Guest Reply says:

    Looks like the County Commissioners/City Council members actually pushed the “Self Destruct” button that sits on their desk…at last!
    Folks that have stated that they will vote these people out during the next election may have just had their work done for them.
    Regardless of “Right or Wrong”…just like the Convention Center (and yes, that is a prime example) the city leaders went ahead and did it “Their Way” regardless of Right or Wrong or proper Protocol.
    The photo’s on their website may have an Update before too long under the heading…”Unavailable”.
    Stay Tuned!!!

  • OtherGuest says:

    It is blatantly, glaringly illegal what has been done here. As stated before, if Mr. Berger had done anything prosecutable, or subject to restraining order, etc., there are legal processes that would or should have been implemented. Mr. Berger is a citizen, just as any other, and is subject to the rule of law. Obviously there was no law violated.

    The elected officials that voted for this amotion proceeding are the real ones that are endangering the citizens of New Hanover county. They threaten and, in fact, usurp their constitutional rights as voting citizens of the State of North Carolina and the United State of America.

    The damage is done, and the citizens have accepted another step towards the totalitarian end of the spectrum, and another step away from a democratic republic.

  • burgerboy says:

    I have my freedom of speech, and just b/c u disagree with me doesn’t make me some ranter on a soap box, sorry to hear about your mom being a kook, it sounds like you took after her, ha!

  • Guest 4253 says:

    FYI: Burgerboy’s just some jerk who says stupid and ridiculous stuff just to provoke others into responding to him. Getting worked up about anything he posts is like getting mad at a rock. Apparently he get’s his jollies from doing this. Looks like he suckered you in this time.

    Just remember: Once fooled, shame on him. Twice fooled, shame on you.

    (BTW: Gotta tell you, if you’re 84 and still going to the beach, you deserve a tip of the old sun hat! LOL)

  • Wilmington Observer says:

    Which rules (that have the consequence of being kicked out of office) did Mr. Berger “break”?

    Wilmington Observer

  • SouthEastNC says:

    BeachGirl is getting too much sun, doesn’t recognize or appreciate parody poster

  • BeachGirl84 says:

    For someone who cares if someone who they think has a mental illness you sure are one cold hearted person. How about you care for a sick parent you whole life. Just because I have a stong mind and speak it does not mean I share in her mental illness, it just gives me a better understanding, how about you learn a thing or two about mental illness, you are more than welcome to joing me at N.A.M.I in Wilmington and hear the troubles we face and how to inprove lives. Your sir are troubled in more than one way. He did break rules by not showing up to multi meetings ( he should not hold a job if he does not work ) I wouldnt expect my boss to pay me if I didnt work, why should our taxes pay for him… there is a long list of things he did, too long to post so plase feel free to Google them.

  • Guest7969 says:

    “However White says the board did what was best for the citizens of New Hanover County.”

    EVEN IF it was illegal? WOW, our local elected leadership is starting to sound like Congress!

  • Wilmington Observer says:

    I have a LOT of questions regarding Mr Berger’s ability to serve the citizens whom ELECTED him to office. However, I have, even more, questions about the legality of this process to remove him. Whereas, I believe that if any other County employee had the same work performance (on or off the clock), that employee would have been terminated, long ago; unfortunately, we don’t hold our, elected, employees to the same standards. It is my, humble, opinion that, since the citizens hired (elected) Mr Beeger, it should have been left to the citizens to fire (not re-elect) him regardless of how much some would consider him an “embarrassment”.

    Would it not be of some “entertainment value” if Mr. Berger ran in the next election?

    Wilmington Observer

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