Coudriet offers to forgive remaining Berger debt; commissioners say not so fast

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Submitted: Wed, 10/03/2012 - 9:31pm
Updated: Thu, 10/04/2012 - 1:20pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — It’s finally pay back time for New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger.

Berger paid a portion of the more than $400 he owes the county in travel expenses, but the story does not stop there.

After several discussions and e-mails between county staff and Berger, the commissioner has paid less than half of his travel debt. To finally move on, the county manager wants to waive the remaining debt, but commissioners say not so fast.

After Monday’s New Hanover County Commission meeting, Berger handed over $160 to County Manager Chris Coudriet. According to an e-mail from Coudriet, Berger refused to pay the remaining $287 saying he is not obligated to, based on his review of an August invoice.

“My concern is that he doesn’t have the resources to pay that balance,” County Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield said.

In his e-mail, Coudriet told commissioners he plans to ask the county finance staff to write off Berger’s remaining debt in an effort to move forward. But commissioners are not too happy with this.

“We voted on this unanimously as a board, and if we’re going to waive any remaining costs, we need to vote on that,” Commissioner Rick Catlin said.

Earlier this year, the board unanimously approved a travel policy, requiring commissioners to pay off any debt before being allowed to travel again.

“He needs to really pay back the money that he owes to the county in its entirety for the policy to be fulfilled,” Barfield said.

Though commissioners we spoke with want to move on, they say any changes must be decided by the board and not the county manager.

“I do understand Chris’s desire to move forward,” Catlin said. “I know that it has caused staff a lot of stress, but we do need to vote on it.”

Wednesday night, Commissioner Berger said the county is out-right lying about the debt amount and says he has sacrificed more than any elected official in Southeastern North Carolina.

“I said, half joking when I was running that I would eat out of garbage cans and live on the streets with my dog if I had to in order to maintain my integrity and fulfill the responsibilities of the office,” Berger says. “I didn’t realize how close I would come to that, but it still holds true that I think public service should involve sacrifice.”


  • jj says:

    I can’t beleive this “”My concern is that he doesn’t have the resources to pay that balance,” County Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield said.”

    There are people out there that can’t afford to pay their taxes either. Take his property like you would everyone else..

  • Guest1971 says:

    He owes travel expenses due to a policy instituted by the Commissioners that states if a member incurs travel expenses (pre-pays a conference, hotel deposits, etc) and then does not travel/attend the event they are liable to pay those back to the county. This prevents them from signing up for things and then backing out at the last minute becuase they have a hang-nail or need to get their haircut or some other equally lame excuse.

  • Missy says:

    If these “travel expenses” had been necessary for his elected position, wouldn’t he have been reimbursed for them?

    Is this a case of him pocketing “extra” money that he couldn’t produce reciepts to prove his expense?

    I guess I just don’t understand how he can owe travel expenses.

  • ChefnSurf says:

    … bad behavior.

    I’m sure Mr. Coudriet, along with the majority of NHC, would be happy if Berger just magically disappeared, but that’s not going to happen. If he’s allowed to write off his debt, the whole process will just start all over again with Berger blowing off even more lodging reservations on the County’s dime.

    Keep the remaining debt on the books with no more discussion. Keep the current travel policy on the books with no more discussion.

    Berger has become about as useful to NHC as an air horn is to a fish. The benefit of Berger representing NHC at meetings outside of the County is even less and possibly even detrimental. If, for the small sum of only $287, Berger will be effectively be prevented from attending these conferences, NHC will be actually be getting a pretty good deal.

    Forgive the debt and it won’t be too long before Berger will have blown even more County money on blown reservations, etc. Regardless of why Berger acts the way he does, NHC would be just as nutty to throw more good money on top of bad.

  • Guest 10101 says:

    for and then not showing up to use them. NHC finally said in effect “If you’re going to continue to waste our money on something you’re not even using, then YOU pay for it!”

    This wouldn’t even be an issue if he hadn’t contiuned to do this repeatedly.

  • Wilmington Observer says:

    Mr. Berger owes me (tax payer) the outstanding $287.16 and I don’t authorize anyone to forgive this, outstanding debt. If I owed the county an outstanding balance I would have my wages garnished and my property seized, for auction. Mr. Berger should be held to a higher standard than those for whom he was elected to represent.

    Wilmington Observer

  • Guest51 says:

    The expenses are hotel and confernece fees, if memory serves me correctly. A county employee probaly booked the hotel and paid the conference regristration fees using county money. Which is fine if Berger would have shown up for the conferences, but he blew them off. That is why he owes the county money.

  • windsnake6969 says:

    They already did take his property.

    Didn’t you read the articles on his pathetic foreclosure?

    Guess he didn’t have the means to pay for that either.

  • Peyton Garrett says:

    Touche’ ChefnSurf.

  • Indi says:

    If the county decides to write off the debt, Berger should receive a 1099 for the amount that was written off.

  • Guester says:

    The expenses may have been necessary, but he was irresponsible. He would make reservations and have the county pay registration fees, then not show up. Taxpayers are now responsible for his irresponsibility. Both the city and the county have travel policies in place (Berger even voted for the County policy) of how much they are allowed to spend on travel and reimbursing for expenses that are not covered, like maybe spending too much on a meal. This is supposed to help keep everyone straight. Berger is breaking the rule he voted for.

  • Mr.T says:

    Forgive the debt for his resignation. Otherwise go after him. That’s what would happen to any citizen who owes the city money? Why does Berger get a pass?

  • SurfCityTom says:

    Mr. Berger is a county commissioner not a city councilman.

    Having said that, for once we agree. No elected official should have debts to the entity which they serve forgiven.

    That sets a very bad precedence.

    ON the other hand, someone needs to approach the Legislature when it is back in session to determine how he can be removed from office.

  • tbrown says:

    Make that sorry person pay every penny! Then give him a one way ticket out of town.

  • Guest1987 says:

    How does Berger compare to the others in spending tax dollars? It’s easy to attack someone. Berger is so devoted and passionate he’s the only one not on the take, not looking for personal benefits, this spending the most doesn’t smell honest. It smells like a distation from the issues, like Rick Catlin’s stadium payoff and Jonathan Barfield and Jason Thompson need to take budget and ethics lessons from the Berger. Let’s just see th facts, the numbers, WWAY, and then editorialize. This is just gossip. Attack against the only friend taxpayers and lowly citizens have in local leadership. Give us the facts (if you can put your hatred for Berger aside long enough to) publish every officials spending and hold this bs from catlin and the lying bossum buddies Barfield and Ms. Thompson!

  • Guest5649 says:

    Seriously? Do you REALLY expect him to pay without some sort of DRAMA?
    That is why he has dragged it on for so long…..he has had NO intention of paying ALL of it….and he knows if he drags it out long enough it will “just disappear”.

  • Guest211 says:


  • STAR says:

    every last one of them uses the city money to travel and they havejust made a big issue out of this little bit of money

  • Straight Shooter says:

    We need to pressure our local delegation on a way to get rid of this Big Mistake!!!

  • Windsnake6969 says:

    He ‘doesn’t have the resources’ to pay what he owes? Well I suppose that makes sense, considering how much he’s had to pay for all his recent court escapades, bonding himself out of jail, and his stint in the nut house. That stuff ads up! Apparently he doesn’t feel that paying back this particular debt is a priority. Maybe he’ll present the board with an I.O.U. written on the back of a recycled cereal box.

  • Guest2020 says:

    As a public servant he has an obligation to the taxpayer to be a good steward with the taxpayers’ money. He should pay the county what he owes rather than squander what doesn’t belong to him. (The rest of the commissioners as well as City Council could use that lesson as well.)

  • Guest9743 says:

    If I or any other taxpayer owed the county more than $400 and paid only $160 I wonder if County Manager Chris Coudriet would be willing to waive the balance, I think not. If this guy isn’t willing to or can’t pay what he owes New Hanover county then maybe he should resign as a county commissioner.

  • SouthEastNC says:

    “this spending the most doesn’t smell honest”

    Wrong again. Nobody said Brian “spends the most” of all the board – Pretty sure Barfield takes that honor. The issue is that Brian is the only one to habitually say that he will attend an event for which the county must pay his registration fees and reserve him a hotel – and then he either doesn’t stay the whole time, or doesn’t show up at all – which means the county wastes money on him. Why can’t you get this through your head?

  • SouthEastNC says:

    If you have something Brian, then let’s hear it. You always say that the others are corrupt, yet you never show anything. Davis called you out on it before, and yet you keep on making accusations that you can’t back up. The rest of us aren’t as dumb as your are, Brian.

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