First meeting for NHC Commissioners since Brian Berger's arrest

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – New Hanover County Commissioners met Thursday afternoon for the first time since Commissioner Brian Berger was arrested on charges of simple assault and injury to personal property, following a dispute with his ex-girlfriend last week.

Commissioners said the legal drama surrounding Berger has not been a distraction for the board. It was business as usual at the meeting, although Berger arrived 10 minutes late. Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield said Berger called him in advance to alert him that he was running late.

Berger said his legal issues are not a distraction for him or the board.

"Without a doubt, I will be found innocent," he said. "I am an effective county commissioner and I hope people know how hard I'm working for them."

The group discussed several important issues during the meeting.

Commissioners heard from the county's ABC Board about a request to approve a raise for the CEO of the county's ABC board, Dan Sykes. The salary for the CEO is $104,998.40. Sykes has been in the position for 14 months and the ABC Board said profits have increased.

The salary of this office is under particular scrutiny following a scandal over the former CEO's salary.

Billy Williams retired last year, after public outrage over his salary - which reached $232,000 annually before retirement.

Commissioners likely will not approve the raise at their regular meeting on Monday.

However, Jonathan Barfield said that commissioners will probably approve a 1% merit increase for county employees. Many employees have gone three years without a raise, according to Barfield.

Commissioners also discussed whether they should restrict nighttime hours at Trails End Park. Neighbors raised concerns about crime and noise near the public boat ramp. However, boaters and fishers spoke out against locking the park. A compromise plan was proposed, one that would put "No Loitering" signs in the park. This would give deputies the authority to write a ticket to those who are not there to use the park for its primary purpose.

The board will vote on many of these issues at its regular meeting on Monday.

Copyright 2011 WECT. All rights reserved.