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