Councilman talks about $32,000 he owes city

Aug. 19, 2013 @ 08:51 PM

High Point City Councilman Foster Douglas on Monday said he will pay a $32,216.35 federal court judgment he owes the city.
After the council’s meeting, Douglas said he plans to confer with fellow council members “as soon as we can get together” to resolve the debt, which stems from the dismissal of a 2002 lawsuit filed by Douglas and his brother, Jerry Douglas, against the city.
“We will hash out how that is done,” he said to TV news cameras and print reporters gathered around him after the meeting. “I will call them or email them and we’ll sit down.”
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 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 the allegations.
In the nearly 10 years since the dismissal was granted, the amount owed has grown to $32,216.35 with interest.
The city has tried twice to collect the judgment, but not since Douglas was elected to the Ward 2 council seat in 2008. Council members recently expressed support for a third round of collection efforts, which legal staff was set to begin this week.
Douglas was hardly apologetic about the issue Monday.
He said that since 2006, the city has spent $207,335.65 for health insurance for council members who elect to have coverage through the city. He argued that he has “saved the city” more than $56,000 by buying his own health insurance since he’s been on council. Douglas said he was not going to ask that his debt be covered by this.
“My colleagues will decide how we work this out,” he said.
He had plenty to say about City Manager Strib Boynton, whom he frequently criticizes. During the meeting, he accused Boynton of allowing the council’s travel budget to be spent in improper ways.
Boynton responded that council — not him — governs its own use of travel funds and that he has no say over how individual members decide how to spend them.
“The hard reality is that he still owes ($32,216.35) from a 2003 judgment. That’s the issue. One can cast aspersions and point fingers everywhere else, but the hard reality is, there’s still a federal judgment Mr. Douglas owes the city and we’ll continue with our efforts to secure it,” Boynton said after the meeting. “A lot of times people, when they have their back against the wall, start casting aspersions on everybody else and if that’s what Mr. Douglas prefers to do, that’s his prerogative to do that. But meanwhile, he still has not addressed the (judgment) he owes the city and we will continue our efforts to secure it.”
Douglas bristled at what he described as Boynton “telling me how I can (pay the judgment) and him recommending to me how he thinks I should do it — he works for City Council. We don’t work for the manager.”
Douglas went on to add, “Everyone wants to know why haven’t I paid it? Because of things of this nature. I don’t feel like the manager is someone I can deal with.”