Mayor Says She Won't Quit
Despite an expected City Council vote this week calling for her resignation, High Point Mayor Bernita Sims told a luncheon gathering Tuesday she will stay on the job.
The council is expected to vote Thursday to seek the mayor’s resignation over several issues related to her personal financial affairs, including a state criminal investigation into her handling of a family member’s estate and scrutiny over unpaid state income taxes.
In her opening remarks at the State of the Community luncheon for business, government and education leaders at High Point University, Sims called the controversy “the elephant” in the room. She apologized for any distraction the controversy caused and said calls for her to quit are “over the top.”
“I will do what I was elected to do,” Sims said. “I do apologize if people feel this has been a distraction to the community and from what we do and how we work and serve as a council. I do not believe that is so.”
Although the vote seeking her resignation is expected to pass, Sims does not have to quit. Her opponents on council say her problems have undermined public confidence in city government. Some council members have also called for Councilman Foster Douglas to resign over several financial problems he faces.
Sims says her financial issues are personal matters that have nothing to do with her public duties. She talked about her performance as mayor.
“I believe at the end of the day that this does not impact the ability of the city to do what it does,” Sims said. “We have worked together every day to do the business of the city and we have done a tremendous job on our budget.”
Sims got a laugh on one comment about how the controversy had “jump-started” business for The High Point Enterprise by selling more newspapers.
“At the end of the day, what we do and how we serve is more important than media stats,” Sims said.
Calls for Sims’ resignation started in Sept. 20 letters to The High Point Enterprise from four council members. Since then, as many as five council members have said they are leaning toward a vote against Sims. A resolution could pass with five votes.
Under state law, a felony conviction is the only grounds for removal of an elected official. High Point has no recall provision that would allow the public to petition to have Sims removed. Sims, who was elected to a two-year term in November 2012, says she believes a vote will distract the council from handling the city’s business.
Also at the luncheon:
• Sims detailed city economic development successes and progress on planning for revitalizing three areas of the city.
• County Commissioner Hank Henning mentioned two new committees that are looking into tax policies and education needs. He said he expects commissioners to continue to work to cut the property tax rate.
• Guilford County Board of Education Chairman Alan Duncan called on business and government leaders to work to improve public education. State funding is not meeting the needs of the county’s growing district, he said.
“You have a business reason to improve the schools,” he said. “Advocate for us.”
Council members Judy Mendenhall and Becky Smothers called for a special meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday at City Hall to consider seeking Mayor Bernita Sims’ resignation.