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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The StarNews reported this weekend that New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet is intentionally violating the county’s personnel policy to fatten the compensation of several top department managers.

This morning we went to the County Commission meeting to see what Coudriet and commissioners had to say.

The county’s personnel policy says the standard personal leave accrual rate for all employees is based on “consecutive years of service in New Hanover County.” But several high-level county employees, including Coudriet, are accruing vacation days at a higher rate without county experience to back it up.

Coudriet has worked for New Hanover County for only five years, but he has the vacation time of someone who has been with the county for 15 to 19 years.

“In terms of creditable time in the local government retirement system, I actually have the equivalent of 15-19 years,” said Coudriet, who worked in a couple of other counties before coming here.

But allowing himself and others to accrue vacation time like that goes against the county’s own policy.

“Policy is a guidance,” Coudriet said. “It’s a framework to work within, and certainly I have taken the opportunity with a couple of hires to extend to them at their request the opportunity to earn vacation that is consistent with their time of service in the public sector.”

We asked Commissioner Brian Berger what message that sends to residents.

“I would say don’t trust your county government,” Berger said. “I would say don’t trust government period.”

He says citizens should keep a close eye on their government.

“Because when we don’t, that’s when government abuses of power start taking place, and that’s what we’re seeing here in New Hanover County,” Berger said.

We tried to talk with Commission Chair Woody White and Vice Chair Beth Dawson. They say they would talk about anything on the meeting agenda, but not this issue. Commissioner Jonathan Barfield told us the vacation time is another tool in the toolbox to recruit good employees. Commissioner Thomas Wolfe left the meeting before we could talk to him. He has not yet returned a phone message seeking comment.

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