Councilman faces loss of home to settle city debt
High Point City Councilman Foster Douglas may be forced to settle a $32,000 debt he owes the city through the seizure and auction of his residence.
Douglas’ house at 309 S. Scientific St. is slated to be sold to the highest bidder by the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office in an auction scheduled for Dec. 17 at the Guilford County Courthouse in Greensboro, according to a notice of sale posted by the GCSO.
Douglas’ debt stems from the dismissal of a 2002 lawsuit filed by him and his brother, Jerry Douglas, against the city of High Point.
The brothers accused the city of civil rights violations in its efforts to police a nightclub they owned on E. Kivett Drive during the 1990s. A federal judge in November 2003 ruled that the Douglases had no evidence to support their claims and ordered them to pay for the city’s cost of defending itself against their allegations.
Since the dismissal was granted, the amount owed has grown to more than $32,000 with interest.
Both brothers are liable for the judgment.
The notice of sale states that Jerry Douglas’ home at 2106 Lowe Ave. is also slated to be auctioned.
The city executed the judgment against the brothers for a third time in August at the direction of City Council. Foster Douglas said at the time that he would pay the debt, but has since paid only $400 as of Monday, according to the city.
Douglas didn’t return phone and email messages Tuesday. Jerry Douglas could not be reached for comment.
The men could retain ownership of their respective homes if the full amount of the judgment is paid prior to next week’s sale, according to City Attorney JoAnne Carlyle, who is not handling the service and collection of the judgment.
City officials enlisted attorneys with Smith Moore Leatherwood of Greensboro to handle this task in order to avoid any possible conflicts, since the case involves a sitting council member.
Anyone can come to the auction and bid on the houses, Carlyle said. By law, any sale would go to the highest bidder or the sole bidder if only one person or entity seeks to buy the property, regardless of the amount offered.
The proceeds from any sales would go toward satisfying the judgment, which stood at $32,216.35 as of September. If no one bids on the houses, another sale could be scheduled or authorities could look into other property or assets the Douglases own that could be seized, Carlyle said.
The city tried twice to collect the judgment before Douglas was elected to the Ward 2 council seat in 2008. In August — after The High Point Enterprise reported that the money was still owed and that no attempts had been made to collect it since Douglas had been on council — the council directed city staff to re-execute the judgment.
At the time of previous collection attempts, Douglas owned no property that could have been seized by law to collect on the debt. Property and other assets up to a certain value can be exempted from the collection process. The city cannot garnish any money from Douglas’ employment income or the $14,410 in annual salary and allowances he earns as a council member.
Douglas has already faced questions about whether he actually lives at the Scientific Street house, which he lists as his official residence on the City Council’s website.
City records indicate that he works for Health Partners Home Care in Hampton, Va., some 280 miles from High Point.
Douglas has refused to comment on the situation, and the council has not challenged his residency status.
If his house is sold at auction, it will likely renew attention on the issue. Under state law governing qualifications for elective office, if a council member ceases to reside in an electoral district they represent, the office is considered vacant.
State law allows a council member to move to a temporary residence within their ward, however.