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E-mails detail citizen's attempt to broker peace between Berger, commission

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Just when you thought there was nothing more to learn about the battle between Brian Berger and the New Hanover County Commission, there is.

E-mails released to WWAY show a month of discussion on how to fix issues with Berger, even to the point of Berger proposing what it would cost the county to get him to resign.

A private citizen contacted Commission Chair Woody White in April looking to mend the fences between the county and Berger. It turned out to be a problem that could not be solved.

Tom Looney says he reached out to White and Berger as "a bona fide attempt at finding a constructive resolution to what has been a major distraction for too long."

Looney, who did not want to talk on camera, says he reached out to Berger early on in his term and called for him to step down and focus on his health.

In April, Looney reached out to Berger again.

"I outlined to Brian suggestions for dealing with the matter which he agreed to in principle," Looney said in a statement to WWAY. "This led me to broker an interaction between Brian and Woody White, to enable them to sit down together, and hopefully come to closure on a graceful exit plan before the amotion hearing."

With both parties on board, Looney asked White if the county would be willing to pay Berger his monthly stipend and health insurance till the end of his elected term.

"I do not think the other board members would pay for his salary, as that would look like we were 'buying him off' and feed into the corruption he thinks exists," White responded in an e-mail.

Talks between Looney and Berger continued. Berger wanted his full pay and benefits until the end of his term in December 2014, as well as $8,000 for unpaid expenses, $5,000 for interest and fees he believed the county owed him and $10,000 more so he could restore his name.

White said the county had no intention of paying him any dollar amount, but did say if Berger would prove he was getting medical help, they could talk about extending his health benefits.

Berger, White and Looney were scheduled to meet May 14. Minutes before the meeting, Berger cancelled.

E-mails after the missed meeting show Looney's once optimistic tone had changed.

"He's impossibly incoherent," he wrote to White in one message about Berger. "I have no idea what he thinks he can accomplish."

The negotiation failed, and commissioners voted Berger out of his seat six days after the missed meeting.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

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Berger

This saga gets more Looney!

no Biggie Looney tune

So who cares if woodys business partner and the long time sheriff causey, who berger won the election from have grandmas and aunts who were long time bridge partners, dont mean nothin

media

Tebow "I am a Christian" Media "Keep it to yourself" Jason Collins "I am gay" Media "You're an inspirtation"

Pathetic

Pathetic to post something so unrelated to the topic at hand.

Since you're already here ..... Too bad you're incapable of seeing that Mr. Tebow's right to self expression is just as valid as Mr. Collins' right to self expression.

Apparently, you're one of those people who think that everyone has the right to express themselves providing it's what you personally want to hear. You're a pathetic, misguided fool.

Very well said. It really is

Very well said. It really is a shame that people are only interested in free speech when the speaker agrees with their point of view.

The Berger situation is a problem that needs to be dealt with...

But while local/state elected officials were hand wringing about setting a bad precedent by establishing a recall election to allow the voters to potentially correct this problem, allowing three commissioners to remove him (one of which wasn't elected) wasn't?? The whole affair seemed bizarre and I think a majority of people agree with me that White isn't being heralded as the conquering hero he thought he'd be viewed as. The online comments I've read and conversations I've had with regular Joe/Jane voters reveal a lot of people who are uncomfortable with how this occurred. No surprise though as this is the same White who, after being handed the gift of finishing out a State Senate term, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the subsequent election against Julia Boseman. It's difficult to imagine a different outcome in 2016 as a lot of Democrats flood the polls to elect whichever Patron Saint of Liberalism the Democrats will trot out. Based on the past couple of elections, NHC is just barely hanging onto being a red county and I doubt we will be by then.

Attn Peyton Garret

Peyton-
On another blog regarding this subject I jumped on you pretty hard about Woody Whites INITIATING this contact with Berger.
I was wrong and I apologize if you took offense.

That said
It appears as though Tom Looney talked to Brian first, then White - but IMHO there's till multiple problems with this:
1 - Tom Looney? I wished you had stayed out of this. The reports indicating a "third party involvement" did nothing but harm all parties concerned. Additionally you have no right and I mean NO RIGHT to try to influence the county commission into an agreement to remove a person who WE ELECTED from office. I find this approach repugnant. We voted him in we should vote him out.
2 - Woody White? How dare you even offer to provide BCBS to Berger. For most county employees that stops within 30 days of "leaving the employ" of the county. This is a slap in the face to all other county employees who may have conditions that require continued treatment. Are you prepare to offer this to other county employees? Berger is and elected official so he's not technically a county employee per se but we pay the county's share with our tax dollars.
3 - This does not change my opinion of the amotion process which I believe to be wrong, and it actually hardens my stance against Mr White who is now shown to be one to use "back room deals" to get things done.

You are all an embarrassment to the county.
Removing Brian is our job - we put him there in the first place - it is our duty to do so. The secrecy surrounding this supposed "deal" is an aberration.

Vog

Those are all very good points!

and very well stated!

E-Mail

I have known Tom Looney for awhile now. I have been given verifiable proof that all Tom wanted to do was try to broker peace on the Commission and help Brian with his problems. I believe Woody White has used this act of concern and kindness to try and justify the amotion process and there is no justification. They presented no witnesses other than the commissioners. They admitted hearsay testimony. They claimed Brian was a threat to them and other county workers. I personally talked to one county worker and she said she was never fearful of Berger. The "lynch mob" has succeeded thus far in this sad tale. They have illegally removed someone who required help instead of ridicule. What the people of New Hanover County need to fear is Woody White hand picking another commissioner and the people being represented for the next year and a half by a board containing 2 commissioners that the people did not elect. It is my opinion that Woody White is a puppet on a string and you can look to his campaign contributors to find the puppeteer. Up until this election, the most anyone had ever spent to be elected a commissioner was around $80,000.00. The average is much less than that. White spent over $125,000.00 to get elected to a job that pays a little less than $17,000.00 a year. It is not hard to wonder if there are other reasons or perks involved. One has to wonder also why this story was released. They have removed Brian from the board. Unless he files to fight this in Superior Court, it is over. If Brian does fight this in court, none of this will matter, the case will be decided on the facts and law. So..........why does Woody White continue to pick on Brian Berger? I wonder who his next victim will be if Brian does not appeal? The schoolyard bully will always need someone to pick on and ridicule.

WAIT ONE MINUTE !!!!

You are going to (illegally) fire an elected official and THEN offer to pay for his "medical benefits"?? That is NOT going to fly unless you plan to pay for those benefits out of YOUR pocket!!! Otherwise, the money will come from the, countless, County Taxpayers who have, through no fault of their own, lost their health benefits and are saddled with health problems. If, any other, County employee was fired the County would not continue to pay their benefits.

If you think that you have "pissed off" County residents with your "Berger Saga" thus far, continue down this road and your chances of reelection will be, close to, zero. .

Wilmington Observer

Hey Peyton

I apologize if you were insulted by my post on the other Berger blog. Now that we know who what why and where we can discuss this in a much more informed way.

1 - Woody White should not be able to promise BCBS to any elected official for any reason.

2 - Tom Looney? I appreciate your effort but in doing this you threw White and Berger both into an unfavorable light for different reasons.

3 - And Tom? You are in NO POSITION to diagnose Berger's mental state - that can only be done by a medical professional. White can't do it, nor can you but it appears as though we just LOVE calling people crazy around here.

IF Whites intent was to catch Berger in a lie then White should be investigated by the state Bar.
No matter what - the process is wrong and inteferes with the voting process.

Vog

The Berger File

Vog, I'm a big boy. Believe me I can dish it out but I can take it. I have to, I'm married to a six foot red head. That said, Looney probably had good intentions in just trying to get Berger to step down with some form of dignity. He found out by his own admission, at least in the e-mails, that Brian was out of it and did not understand what he was trying to accomplish.

Everyone is up in arms about the commission's use of the process to remove Berger, that it is illegal. Apparently it is on the books somewhere. The judge had the opportunity to issue an injunction to stop the proceedings but did not. This leads me to believe there has to be some merit to its use. As unprecedented as it is, the fact is it is an available means,,,,apparently. I assume we shall learn more in another month. While I also think Berger probably does not have the best representation in this matter, he has made his decisions however delusional and now must live with them. I see this as going on for years at different judicial levels.

In the meantime the sun will come up and the traffic will snarl and sewers will overflow and the bridge will get stuck and life will go on.

Ridiculous Argument

Your argument is good for a laugh. Amotion "must be on the books somewhere", so therefore it is legal?
A) amotion is legal, but not for county government, and not because you think the person in question isn't qualified. City government was able to use it almost 100 years ago because cities are organized under their own corporate charters. Counties are not. Counties are an extension of state government by state government, and as such are subject to state law. There is a process to remove an elected official for cause in state law. Brian Berger did not meet the criteria for this, period.
B) the judge had an opportunity to grant an injunction prior to the hearing, but did not, so therefore it is legal??
I wonder who you are, poster. Maybe King White is feeling compelled to defend himself online? Brian's attorney did file a request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) prior to the hearing. When it was filed, the county filing office promptly and INAPPROPRIATELY contacted Mr. White, the party the injunction was against, by phone. The county judge who was to consider the TRO request spoke to Mr. White by phone before speaking to anyone from the requesting party. With a TRO, the opposing party has ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHTS TO BE HEARD OR MAKE ARGUMENT. Frankly, the judge and Mr. White should most certainly have actions taken against them. They are both legal experts, in theory if not in practice, and know the law. They ended up moving the motion out of the area to a special business court judge in Greensboro who ruled against the TRO. The amount of political and professional impropriety here is proof that the scandals plaguing the current presidential administration are alive and well in our county as well.
C) the only saving grace here appears to be that the county can argue White, Dawson, And Wolfe are individually liable here. Threatening or preventing someone to their individual right to hold office is a tort, by legal definition. There are no limits on tort damage, and an official guilty of it is individually liable. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tort
If Berger goes this route he will most certainly win. I hope the commissioners are ready to pay up personally and individually. There is no way our county dollars should be spent on one man's arrogance and ignorance.

Peyton

I'm 6'4" and married to a woman who's 5' .
She also happened to be the only person I'm afraid of - so yeah I get it about the Redhead.
I know you can dish it and take it but I realized I was off base and the "act" of apologizing is also good for the "apologizer" to re-set his own argument. I say I admit when I'm wrong - and I mean it.
The amotion process finds its origins in common law but is more so geared towards corporate governance not political governance - so is it on the books? Not in the General statutes of NC.
Our politicians have been very careful to NOT give voters a chance to change their minds or to correct a mistake and electing Berger was clearly a mistake. It just seems abhorrent to me to usurp the voters authority to elect/remove a person from his elected position - given that the politicians MADE SURE we don't have the right to electoral recall......
I don't think a judge will rule that this is a constitutional process OR he will rule that not enough evidence was provided to support removal of Berger from office.
Harassment has it's own policy within county government for county employees - which Berger is not.
As for Brain being dangerous - why did the State Police not intervene when Brian climbed up on stage near the Governor? He came from a specific area of the crowd that was identified as local politicians and dignitaries. He, apparently was deemed "safe".
As for Brian's personal life? I am hesitant to use this as a basis for removal because it is "personal". The DUI charge is disturbing but not settled yet nor do I think it warrants removal from office.
The money appears to be a non issue as the hotel did confirm Brian was there, using the facility.
We're left with attendance. This is more embarrassing to Berger and the Commission then it is a reason for removal.
But on the whole? I can see censure and support it 100% - but if anyone researched a process such as amotion - saw it's lack of use - saw it's lack of case law history and saw the seriousness of the charges required to use it - and still pursued it against Brian Berger? That smacks of a vendetta in my mind and the person doing it is no better then Brian himself.

Vog

Berger File

"In the meantime the sun will come up and the traffic will snarl and sewers will overflow and the bridge will get stuck and life will go on."..........and we will still be stuck with the Commissioner that really needs removing.......Woody White.

continuation of benefits

When I was Laid off from the county 4 years ago nobody offered me health insurance for my wife who has MS and my son who has down syndrome. My life might be a little different if I was able to pull that off, which would be what woody white offered berger