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Can the people of New Hanover County impeach a county commissioner?

Ken Little
StarNews
New Hanover County seal

Committing offenses like embezzlement or election law violations can lead to the removal of the official by the state Attorney General.

No.

“There’s no impeachment process for county commissioners. Some cities have the power to do a recall election but no counties have been granted that power by the General Assembly,” said Kemp Burpeau, deputy county attorney for New Hanover County.

In order to hold office, a local government official must be eligible to hold office originally, meaning the official cannot have a felony conviction, for instance.

Committing offenses like embezzlement or election law violations can also lead to the removal of the official by the state Attorney General, Burpeau said.

The only other option falls on each citizen.

“They need to express their discontent at the next election, assuming that person is up for re-election,” Burpeau said. “They need to vote their conscience, I guess.”

UPDATE: Since this question was first answered, we’ve learned more about whether a county commissioner can be removed from office.

There are currently only four ways to remove an elected official in North Carolina: if the member is convicted of a felony, corruption, financial or election law violations; the state legislature passes an act removing him; the attorney general brings action on behalf of the state in Superior Court; or the board files an amotion.

The local delegation to the General Assembly is reluctant to act on the commissioners’ request for legislation that would enable them to remove Commissioner Brian Berger from the board.

So the New Hanover County Commissioners voted in April 2013 to initiate an “amotion” process to eject Berger. It’s a common law procedure that gives a private corporation the ability to remove an officer because he is unfit.

Since the amotion process is not a statute, reporter Ashley Withers wrote, it is up to the government body as to how to proceed and final interpretations of amotion authority sit with a judge or the N.C. Supreme Court.

On Sept. 5, 2013, Judge James L. Gale upheld the amotion process but reinstated Berger because of procedural issues.

Keep up with developments on the case at StarNewsOnline.com/BrianBerger.

User-contributed question by:
Chris

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One Response to “ Can the people of New Hanover County impeach a county commissioner?”

  1. On June 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm Josh wrote:

    The county doesn’t have a referendum process? Even if there weren’t an ordinance to do this now on the books, could a referendum be held to create the ordinance?



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