After New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger said he’d received an unwelcome reception when he offered to settle his travel debt with the county, County Manager Chris Coudriet sent Berger an email saying he had a much different recollection of the issue.
“My recollection is quite clear,” Coudriet wrote in an email to Berger Monday afternoon. “You and I have discussed on several occasions the obligation and more than once you’ve noted you intended to make payment. As of today at 1:30 p.m. the county has not received nor been approached about any payment on your behalf.”
The email followed a Port City Daily report that quoted Berger as saying he offered to pay the roughly $547 in fees the county says it is owed. The fees concern conferences at which Berger was registered to attend but did not appear. There were also associated hotel fees. Berger had said “there was not a welcome reception” to his offer last week to write the county a check and “put the issue to bed.”
The Port City Daily story concerned Berger’s receipt of a scholarship to attend a UNC School of Government course on economic development and finance tools on Sept. 19-20 in Chapel Hill. Berger did not attend.
He explained the county, on the day the event started, put him through a “hassle” that prevented him from going. Part of the issue, he said, was that the county would not accommodate him with a vehicle. In general, Berger said, the county wanted him to reimburse it for the travel fees, and when Berger offered to do so, the county was not cooperative.
Coudriet said that’s not what happened.
“In fact,” Coudriet said in his Monday email to Berger, “the last time we met in person on this matter, which was in my office, I outlined what I saw as several ways forward.”
Options Coudriet said he presented to Berger included asking the county commission to forgive the costs; asking the board to reconsider the retroactive nature of its current travel policy, which the commission updated in June after Berger missed events that cost the county money; or heading to the county’s finance department and making payment.
“If at any point we made it unwelcome in resolving this matter, I would like to know,” Coudriet said in his email. “Candidly, I nor the staff are aware of any attempt on your part to address this matter.”
An email Port City Daily sent Berger for comment Monday afternoon was not immediately returned.