ONLY ON 3: Berger’s e-mail, accusations show divided commission

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Submitted: Thu, 03/31/2011 - 11:04pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — For weeks we’ve been looking into a level of divisiveness among New Hanover County Commissioners. County insiders and simple observation have told us Commissioner Brian Berger has become increasingly frustrated with fellow commissioners and vice versa.

This week a series of e-mails among commissioners show just how high that frustration has grown. Today Berger showed his relationship with one commissioner is especially strained.

In his short time on the New Hanover County Commission Berger has certainly made his mark; much of it controversial. He’s been reluctant to sit down and talk with us about much of that.

So after his latest controversy involving an e-mail tirade launched at county staff and fellow commissioners, News Director Scott Pickey and News Content Manager Kevin Wuzzardo decided they would go to Berger.

Berger joined hundreds of other people at a Smart Start benefit breakfast at UNCW Wednesday morning. As he made an early exit, we asked to talk, and he agreed.

First we asked about why he’s so passionate about the issue the county calls non-attainment – the topic he wants information about but feels county staff is stonewalling him on. Berger launched into a lengthy response to that and other questions.

But it didn’t take long to get to what seems to be the heart of his frustrations.

"Being in Washington, DC, a couple weeks ago, I was able to accomplish more in the morning than my colleague Rick Catlin had been able to accomplish in the weeks preceding that trip to DC," Berger said.

In the e-mail to county staff Monday, he demanded information he’d requested a week earlier. Berger said Commissioner Catlin, an environmental engineer using his expertise to help with the pollution issue, had scheduled "secret" meetings. Because too many commissioners at a meeting creates a quorum and a public meeting under law, Berger acknowledged not everyone could attend. Catlin told us when he scheduled meetings with experts, he invited Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield or a commissioner of Barfield’s choice.

Thursday Berger tried to backtrack.

"Secret isn’t necessarily the word," Berger said. "But when you have a meeting, and you don’t tell your colleagues about it and you refuse to answer questions…"

We asked Berger if he had ever met with a member of county staff or another commissioner without everybody else being there.

"Absolutely," he said.

Berger admitted he wished he could retract his rambling, ranting e-mail that may give readers a reason to question his mental state.

"It does read like a manifesto, and it is certainly conducive to to creating the perception that I’m a crazy person, ’cause it’s typically crazy people that write manifestoes, but I don’t live in a log cabin in the woods in Montana," Berger said.

Throughout the nearly 30-minute interview, Berger both lauded Catlin and chastised him.

Watch our entire interview with Brian Berger

Berger has routinely called out the rest of the commission for trying to conduct "business as usual," saying that he won’t play by old rules.

Throughout his run for office and his short time in office, there have been both public and private questions about who is behind Berger.

When we asked Berger about how he prepares for County Commission meetings, he started talking about notes he says another commissioner stole from his desk in the commission chambers. We happened to have a copy of the notes, which seem to show someone else giving berger directions on what points to discuss and even how to vote, though Berger claims how he voted varies in some ways from the sheet of notes. (We have attached Berger’s notes in their entirety)

Berger was unwilling to tell us who gave him those directions.

"It’s from myself," he said. "It’s cut and pasted from other sources."

Pickey asked, "But who’s telling you what to do?"

Berger answered, "I make my own decisions."

Berger went on to imply Catlin stole the notes, but danced around the issue.

"Did Rick Catlin steal this from you?" Pickey asked.

Berger answered, "You’d have to ask him that."
We did.

"No," Catlin said. "I didn’t know he had notes until the reporter called me and asked me about it."

We let Catlin watch our interview with Berger and asked him for his reaction.

"I don’t really understand his perspective on things, and I don’t really know how to respond. I’m a little worried about him," Catlin said.

Catlin says he’s concerned that Berger believes in a conspiracy against him, which makes it difficult to communicate with the commissioner.

He said while the media, including WWAY, have helped stir up the tensions between Berger and the other commissioners it is  a very serious issue.

"In my personal opinion, I think it’s a very significant problem," Catlin said. "And I think we need to work very hard to try to resolve it. We owe it to the citizens of New Hanover County to try to resolve this problem."

Catlin isn’t alone. Other county leaders have told WWAY they have concerns with Berger and his ability to effectively be part of the County Commission.

Berger has regularly called for transparency, yet he himself has been far from transparent. As far back as the run-off he won against incumbent Bill Caster last summer, we and others have tried to find out more about the man, candidate and now elected leader, including what he does for a living. Berger has routinely said only that he is a consultant for a number of things, but never gives specifics as to what.

As Berger grew angry with our questions Wednesday and stormed off, he still would not answer that basic question.

"You want transparency from everybody else, but you won’t be transparent yourself," Wuzzardo said.

Berger answered, "You won’t find anyone more transparent than me."

"Then what do you do? " Wuzzardo asked. "Who do you represent? What do you consult on? What do you consult on, brian? What are you a consultant for? Who do you work for?"

Berger said he had a meeting and walked away.



  • truthsquad says:

    This bozo would like us to focus on another commissioner’s mental state-I think we should focus on Catlin’s integrity and dealings over the years with the County. I’d be mad as hell too if Catlin failed to call me when I was meeting with senate and house staff on issues of importance to NHC. Catlin is the issue not Able, Berger and Curtis Wright. Catlin is a throwback to the kind of crap poltics where if you can not deal with the facts you smear people. His smugness and arrogance in dealing with most folks should be well known-so all of this should be no surprise

  • Mike R says:

    After hearing his interviews and reading his emails I can only draw one conclusion.. he is coloring in a coloring book. Good grief Charlie Brown why in the world did the Tea Party put this guy up for election… and what does he do for a living?? We must assume not much because no one in their right mind will hire him for anything important! I know 3 year olds that can speak in complete sentances better than him!

  • WilmWatcher says:

    WWAY – your “reporting” has festered into something that no longer even resembles journalism. This vengeful op-ed style makes the National Enquirer look like the Holy Bible. Those notes, as has been reported already, and has long been put to bed, were written by Brian Berger. They read as if someone else wrote them, but such is the way he thinks. He writes to himself in this way. I guess that’s a “scandal” too – the way he prepares for meetings.

    Your comment about him not being transparent, and questioning his mental state is way out of line. As much as you would like to be, you are not a blog, or an op-ed column. You are supposed to be journalists; although your style of journalism is an insult to real journalists everywhere. Your crusade against Berger is pathetic, and stems from your childish reaction to him not inviting you to his press conference a while back. This is absolutely pathetic.

    As to the question of his employment, I don’t what is so hard to understand. He is a marketing consultant, who is self-employed. Catlin is self-employed. Thompson is self-employed. Barfield is self-employed. Why aren’t these “scandals”? Berger works with many out-of-state private firms on marketing communications and strategy. You phrase it as if there is something hidden here. You are desperately trying to incite outrage and a public backlash against him – because of your petulent, immature, personal vendetta.

    People are quickly realizing that WWAY is not a source of news, but underhanded dreck – and people are going to continue to avoid you and not agree to interviews, because they don’t view you as a serious and viable news outlet – and they don’t want to be crucified for what they had for dinner last Tuesday.

  • Straight Shooter says:

    WilmWatcher are you so naive? Do you not want the truth. We all know what the other commissioner do for a living. We know nothing about Brian Berger. When asked, Berger should have gladly giving the information, the others have but Berger never does. What is he hiding? I’m glad we have one news organization in this area that is not afraid dig a little deeper to bring us pertinent information.
    Say what you want about past commissioners, do you ever recall anything being the fiasco that is now!

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    I voted for Berger.

    Since then I have learned that he has poor judgment (shacking up with a married woman), doesn’t write a very good e-mail, and may not be very good at public speaking in the absence of a prepared speech.

    Guess what? Given the same circumstances, I’d vote for him again today. Am I the only one who remembers the choices in the runoff election: Berger or “Business as usual” Bill? Mister Rubber Stamp for the developers? The founding father of CFPUA?

    Berger can attend council meetings in his underwear, stop bathing, and start speaking in a phony French accent for all I care, as long as he keeps voting AGAINST projects that are not a function of government and waste taxpayers’ money.

    He’s a refreshing change to the Republican crooks who never met a 600-home development they didn’t like, and Democrat weasels who never met a tax they didn’t love.

  • Guest401 says:

    I believe that any normal person could have answered those questions in about half the time it took Mr. Berger. 27 minutes for only 8 min of answers?? In todays politics, perception is reality, Brian Berger comes off as an unintelligent, stammering, trainwreck. With multiple contradictions during that segment. I do agree that someone needs to break up the “good ole boy” politics that have been associated with New Hanover County, but we have to have a more credible voice than Brian Berger. I cant believe this is a representative of New Hanover County.

  • Guest1118 says:

    To Commonsenseconservative below. I agree completely with you. Brian is a breath of fresh air.

  • Straight Shooter says:

    It’s not been shown as of yet that Berger is capable of doing anything other than lip service and even that is difficult for him. He has made some claims but no details. He will not answer questions about himself. Our County Commissioners are in the most disarray that I have seen in the 20+ years I have been here. Is this the change you want?

  • Guest333 says:

    To Wilm Watcher….Aw come’on now, don’t get your shirt all wrinkled. Jonathan has enough ironing!!
    Seriously now, if Brian really and truly “works with many out-of-state private firms on marketing communications and strategy”, why has it been so difficult for BRIAN to COMMUNICATE what he does, when he was questioned? Seems that anyone who does what YOU say he does for a living would be quite pleased with how IMPORTANT his job is and how successful he MUST be! Why would he avoid such a question?

    I have NEVER had any difficulty telling ANYONE what I do for a living, have you? And if so, WHY? Don’t you know what you do, did you forget, are you embarrassed, or is it a fabrication made up by a vast right wing conspirator? Hilliary, ah, remember those days of ire?

    WWAY questioned WHO was behind his notes/questions… I THINK IT MUST BE YOU! THAT IS THE SCANDAL! You seem to know how to SPEAK for HIM a whole LOT better than he speaks for himself.
    What’s up with THAT???
    As a play on words….
    Inquiring minds want to know. As a truism, VOTING minds want to know, especially conservatives like me, who do NOT like the ANTICS associated with a new member of our County Govt. whom I have helped to become elected. QUIT GUIDING HIM, YOU are making him crazy nervous, he was afraid he lost “YOUR NOTES”. GEEZ! It’s time to Cut the Cord/

  • Guest says:

    Surely if you are talking about self interest and a failure to be truthful you have to mean rick catlin–caster;s buddy and devotee-it’s wild but he is afraid of Berger so now he trys to smear him-Catlin stinks and so does stealing a commssioners notes-someone did!

  • Guest says:

    I agree 100% and I think most people in New Hanover will agree with your statement but this is the Tea Party’s boy, they know it too but now that he’s in they are ashamed to come out against him. Way to go Tea Party, hope you have many more candidates like him lined up for the next election.

  • Peter C. says:

    Tweedle Dum and Dweedle Dee — Brian obviously LYING to the reporter. No one writes notes in the third person. Just remember that Berger is the spawn of ABLE and the Tea Party — most Republicans hate him. ABLE tried again to take over the GOP leadership locally (again) and failed in their choice of a party chair, Sandy Best.

    Since Ben McCoy and his cohorts are mostly un-employed, please know that the many “pro-Berger” posts are from McCoy. I’ve heard he uses a IP masking service to trick WWAY, WECT and the StarNews blog sites so that he has many different aliases. But the tone and nutty rhetoric are al the same!

  • Guest says:

    Who is Ben McCoy?

  • Straight Shooter says:

    Because Brian Berger simply has no idea what he is doing and how to handle himself as a Commissioner!

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    …but he’s better than ANY Democrat.

  • Guest says:

    Excuse me but did you say “he may be nuts”?????

  • skppyus says:

    AMEN! Too bad that puppet couldn’t find smarter master’s to pull his strings. Are we reduced to this when it comes to a 3rd choice instead of a jacka$$ or a elephant? Good Grief Charlie Brown!!!

  • real straightshooter says:

    This is the same crap from the same crowd that has bled this county dry. Someone-be it Catlin or someone else stole a commissioners notes. That stinks whether it’s this guy or someone else.
    This town stinks -we get the crappy leaders like catlin and barfield we deserve. Someday we will discuss what is in there closets–

  • Guest says:

    barfield is a pathetic excuse for a chairperson-why isn’t he investigating why it took 10 days to respond to brian berger’s initial e-mail requesting info on the non-attainmentissue . Why isnt he investigating who stole that commssioners’ notes-it stinks and smells rotten, Was he to busy plaing golf with a Titan, developer or other lobbyist?

  • Guest says:

    your right including this crappy news story, along with many others that contain misspelled words ,misleading runon information and sentences, that make u misunderstand the story and i just about need whoever at wway3 that writes these stories online to translate them too me correctly half the time …thursday is in this story an its wednesday …and how did wwyatv3 get a copy of these notes and post them online ,when during the interview with berger it had nothing about berger giving wwaytv3 a copy of these notes posted on here ..i beleieve berger now he is right they were stolen…and a work week is a long period of time to recieve a email..why not use the usps …ever notice the high turnover rate of wwaytv3s staff and how they hire these newbies fresh out of college with not so much experience and pay them low salaries …

  • Guest says:

    Brian needs to handle himself better. It must be difficult with both the press and the insider politicians clearly out to destroy him.

    Hey WWAY, why don’t you spend any time yelling some questions at Mayor Saffo?

  • Straight Shooter says:

    Brian Berger has finally exposed the Nut-Jobs that he and you are!

  • Sarah Sanders says:

    You know, one of the main reasons things have been so “controversial” with Berger is because he is the first person who is actually willing to step in and DO SOMETHING productive to make this county better! When he ran for office, he said he wanted to make changes in the way things were done, and that means going against the grain; which is bound to stir things up! So many county employees and board members are “good ol’ boys” and are just in it for themselves and so when someone opposed to all that steps in then its real easy to twist things to make them look “controversial!” If things stay the way they are, nothing will get better and unfortunately, right now Berger seems to be alone on the board. Either you got Catlin, who is just out for himself and brags about how he owned his own business every chance he gets, and he joins board after board for the bragging rights, or you get Thompson who is so confrontational about everything and who talks down to those who put him in they commissioner’s seat! Its really easy for a tabloid that tries to pose as a serious news station to go for the underdog of the commission! Berger asked for information and it should not take ten plus days to get it back to him! Furthermore, I am happy to hear that Berger takes notes and prepares for the meetings! I have been to several county commission meetings and often I see Berger jotting notes in a notepad while the others simply sit there. Its nice to see someone so attentive! Maybe the other commissioners should take notes on Berger’s actions!

  • Straight Shooter says:

    The un-cut video up, on this site, of WWAY’s interview yesterday with Brian Berger leaves NO DOUBT that he is NOT transparent! It also clearly shows the lack of his ability to serve effectively as a County Commissioner. And as during the campaign, he still refuses to answer questions about his past and who he works for. This should be very troubling to us all! The video is a MUST SEE by all, particularly those who may be in doubt!

  • Peter C. says:

    > Looking at the 30 minute video of Brian’s interview yesterday — it is clear he has an IQ that is pushing 80 at best — that’s why he needs ABLE to tell him what to do. He rambles and sounds confused the whole time. Thank Curtis for plugging this guy so much on the Big Talker — NOT.

    Shame on Ben McCoy, Curtis Wright, Laura Triece, Carolyn Bordeaux, Tom Heitman and the rest of that sickening ABLE bunch ragtags. For those who don’t know, ABLE is a tea party PAC that tries (and fails) to take over the New Hanover County GOP every year. Most of them are un-employed and they claim the other county commissioners are “crooks.” Hell, I’d vote for a commie before I ever cast a ballet for you guys.

  • Guest says:

    Well folks its official, we now have our own Alvin Greene in New Hanover County.

    It’s sad that Brian can’t see he’s been used. Shame on Ben McCoy, Curtis Wright, Laura Triece, Carolyn Bordeaux, Tom Heitman and the rest of that ABLE bunch. You can tell he’s capable of making clear decisions if you’d let him, but instead you feed him your agenda, while filling his head full of false praise to do you bidding. Have you no conscience, morals or sense of decency. Stop trying to manipulate him with a bombardment of your hate spewed political agenda.

    Brian I pray that you wake up and see who these people really are, they’re not your friends, and they’re not your mentors, just backroom sleazes who will throw you aside when they are done. Think Brian think, you got elected not them. They’re the ones making you look like a fool. Seek some party help; I know for a fact you’ve been offered guidance, I heard it at one of the meeting myself. Take these people up on it; you really can make this something you own, not that other bunch. Stand for yourself.

  • Ben McCoy says:

    You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. No one from ABLE “feeds” him anything. No one is pulling anybody’s strings. You are a victim of your own self-delusion. You are also a coward hiding behind a “Guest” screen name. You make these accusations and charges because of your comfort in your anonymity. You think that since no one knows who or where you are, you can say anything you want, and call people out by name – accusing them of criminal and unethical activity. I for one do not appreciate it. I am guilty of nothing, and your delusional fantasies have no merit. You are weak little coward, and I guarantee that you wouldn’t make these accusations to my face.

  • Guest 333 says:

    I concur! I see the manipulation exactly AS you have it spelled out “Shame On…
    And, I also agree that Brian does fine when he isn’t being manipulated by the puppeteers, and we know who is pulling his strings. Ditto, on advising Brian to seek our Party’s help, he needs a de-briefing after being tied to “vast right-wing manipulators”, which I never thought would be words uttered from my lips. Truly, if THEY wanted so DESPERATELY to tout their agenda, they SHOULD have Run for the OFFICE themselves.
    I would not have voted for them though!

  • Guest says:

    Whoa!! I am not the writer of any of the comments identified as Peter C!!
    Those who know me have never heard me speak or write in that tone!

    Peter Connelly

  • Mary Russell says:

    Thank you WWAY for covering this. “Grilling Berger.” “Well Done!”

  • Guest says:

    funny- this isnt about able or berger’s e-mails this is really about Catlin and his very questionable integrity. Smugness, arrogance and namecalling will not fool most folks about this man’s contemptible conduct. he choose to call another commissioners name but did you notice he did not address the grandstanding issue. There are more questions about catlin and his dealings with the county than there are about any other commissioner.

  • Guest says:

    It probably took 10 days because Berger didn’t follow protocol. Commissioners are supposed to go to the County Manager with requests, and the County Manager will get the info. Instead, he went to a planner, who had to go to their department head, who went to the County Manager, who then had to get the information and disseminate it. Generally if one elected official asks for information, it will be made available to all. It almost looks to me like Mr. Berger was looking for something to complain about.

  • Ben McCoy says:

    HAHA! I though I had heard it all before this. I use “IP masking services” – what the hell is that? You are lying dirtbag. I have never pulled anyone’s strings – I supported Berger openly when he ran because I stand for what he stands for. No you guys are filling in your own blanks with whatever your pathetic little minds can come up with. You would never speak to me this way to my face, or accuse me of these things. I invite you to do so. Feel free to send me an email wilmingtonrants (at) gmail – I’ll give you that opportunity. You are walking a fine line here friend. I am not an elected official – I have rights and being accused of these things violates them. If you have evidence of any of the garbage that you spout – please, we are all waiting. If not, stick a sock in it little fella.

  • Guest461 says:

    You comissioners are really something else. You think you answer to nobody, do whatever the hell you want with complete disregard for your constiuents, then you threaten people.

    So tell me Mr. McCoy, if someone made these accusations to your face what are YOU going to do about it? Invite them to a parking lot for a fight, sue them for libel, accuse them of wearing depends?

    You know, it’s really simple. Just be forthright with your customers, the citizens of New Hanover County. Stop avoidance, answer questions, get off your high horse and represent your county the way we elected you to do. The antics that evolve in your office are childish, CLANISH and quite suspicious to say the least. These are the reasons you get targeted. Now when pushed in a corner, you want to threaten, another childish and unprofessional response. The concensus of the general public is that we don’t like you, we don’t like what you do or how you do it. It is quite obvious that you DO NOT have the citizens of this county in your best interest.

    There are NO cowards here, this is a news site that allows readers to leave comments about their articles. Nobody leaves personal contact information here. Your lack of professionalism, ease at being baited into anger and the inability to restrain yourself from showing it displays your very shallow character and thin skin.

    At your next public meeting, call out for J.T. the “Coward”. I’ll step up to the plate if you will!

  • Ben McCoy says:

    Your rambling post made no sense. Who are you talking to? I don’t serve in public office. And yes – you and everyone else who make accusations against private citizens because you are anonymous on this website are cowardly little children. It’s pathetic really. I find it funny that you are able to make a comment on my character based on a discussion thread. You don’t know me – and unless you wrote the post above, I wasn’t talking to you. But the fact that you are hiding behind your little anonymous screen name says a lot about you. So hurry up and log in with your “Guest xxx” name and say something really snarky and brave and heroic back to me. Or better yet – write in a different screen name and pretend like you are someone else agreeing with yourself. That’s incredibly brave and original.

  • Guest says:

    This entire thread reflects the ignorance of Peter C and his liberal sheep…a pesky little “fact” for Peter C, et al….I have never been a member of ABLE, none of my “directives” were on Berger’s note pad, and I don’t advise County Commissioners….stop showing your ignorance, stupidity, and lack of “class”…Peter C doesn’ disclose his name because all of WILM would then know he is ” nobody”…

    Curtis Wright

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