NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Commissioners in New Hanover County are quarreling after one commissioner claims he's been shut out of the political process.
Commissioner Brian Berger said in an interview that he's working in what he describes as a "den of snakes".
Berger is accusing other commissioners of holding secret meetings. He claims he is being intentionally shut out by his fellow commissioners and county staff.
In an email WECT obtained that was sent on March 21, 2011, Berger requested documents about the non-attainment issues facing New Hanover County from two county employees, Chris O'Keefe and Shawn Ralston. He also requested a list of all meetings on this issue and future meetings.
[Read the email exchange (PDF)]
Upon not receiving that information by March 28, Berger wrote a sharply worded 6-page email to the county employees, sometimes using capital letters to express his points. He also copied his fellow commissioners and County Manager Bruce Shell.
"This stonewalling and secrecy and attempt to filter information is NOT ACCEPTABLE," Berger wrote. "THE ACTIONS OF STAFF AND CERTAIN COMMISSIONERS HAS BEEN AN AFFRONT TO OPENNESS AND ACCOUNTABLILITY."
In response, Shell wrote that he planned to meet with staff to "understand where we have not complied with your request and to determine next steps."
County Commissioner Jason Thompson wrote to Brian, "This is ridiculous. Brian you are a commissioner not der fuhrer. Your email shows you do not understand a manager/commissioner form o govt (sic)."
Berger responded via email stating that he found Thompson's comments "offensive and inappropriate".
Berger even added a new accusation when we talked to him.
"Rick Catlin or somebody at the last commissioners meeting took a piece of my notes.
We talked to Catlin on the phone.
"These are fabricated allegations," he said. "I've never seen such bizarre behavior."
Berger maintains that he's being stonewalled and sabotaged.
"It raises serious questions about them and their character but that's between them and a higher power," Berger said.
We asked Catlin how he plans to continue to work on the board with Berger, given the allegations that are being leveled against him.
"I'm going to pray on it," Catlin responded.
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