WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) - New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger told the Star News today he didn't know not saying anything during a vote would be considered a 'yea' vote.
Berger claims he didn't vote Monday to approve the purchase of 80 acres of land to be turned into a nature center. Chairman Jonathan Barfield, who sits next to Berger, says he did. Barfield says when he asked for a vote, he heard all four commissioners vote 'yea' so he didn't ask if anyone was opposed.
Berger says he didn't vote and assumed Barfield would ask if anyone wanted to vote 'nay.' But the county's rules for meetings state that a member who doesn't vote, and hasn't been excused, will be recorded as voting 'yea.'
Berger told reporter Kevin Maurer, "That is my fault of not making an issue of it at the time. I thought my vote was recorded as a no. It is no big deal."
But local activist Ben McCoy made a big deal out of it, emailing the media and county staff demanding the record be changed or there be a re-vote.
McCoy told Maurer he texted Berger to see how he voted. He says Berger told him he voted against it but wasn't aware that his vote was recorded as a 'yea.'
"He said he was completely unaware of the rules," McCoy said. "He said he thought since he did not give an affirmative signal, the clerk would vote it as a nay."
Barfield told Maurer, "All of this stuff is elected official 101. If you desire the position, be prepared for what you asked for."
Berger also voted for another park purchase during his first-ever commissioner meeting. When he was chastised by supporters, he said he didn't know he could vote 'no.'