Councilman: Credit card spurred grievance

Jul. 02, 2014 @ 05:15 PM

An email from a High Point City Council member obtained by The High Point Enterprise sheds new light on one of the city’s recent controversies.
Councilman Foster Douglas wrote to his colleagues Monday that a grievance brought against former City Manager Strib Boynton by Human Relations Director Al Heggins stemmed from usage of a city-issued credit card.
“The grievance filed against the city manager by Al Heggins on or around about February 14, 2014 as we were told stem (sic) from his usage of the city's American Express credit card to pay for Human Relations Departments (sic) travel and Hotel reservations for all attendees of those scheduled conferences that included some members of her family, that attended the conference as chaperons (sic),” Douglas wrote, apparently referring to trips by the student Human Relations Commission that were led by Heggins.
The city has long paid for the trips by the student group, and the council budgeted $12,500 for an upcoming trip for the same purpose this year.
“After paying for these trips the two previous years at a cost of 50 to 70 thousand dollars with out city councils (sic) approval, which was an unauthorized usage of the city's American Express credit card (sic),” Douglas wrote.
Officials said the trips were approved by the city, so the use of the credit card was authorized.
Heggins brought the grievance after an alleged verbal confrontation with Boynton. Douglas’ email indicates that the confrontation may have been over the credit card charges.
Boynton declined to comment.
Heggins was paid $12,000 by the city after the grievance was settled in April. Officials have not disclosed the reason for the payment.
When asked for comment Wednesday, Heggins replied by email:
“I need permission from the City to address questions regarding the matter you are interested in.
Although, I'm concerned about the stories you have written and will write about me based on confidential information released by the City, snippets gleaned from emails, possible comments from retirees, etc., and I am constrained by parameters established by the law, City policy and personal integrity; therefore, rendering me unable to share my side of the story.
I can only hope the High Point Enterprise will practice the high journalistic standards you hold dear and not print a story with an angle to exonerate one and condemn another; especially when I can't talk about it.”
Douglas did talk about the case, at length, in his email:
“I recall it being discussed that Al Heggins was fearful of the manager after she had to go to the emergency room of an apparent panic attack that was alleged to have been cause (sic) by the manager,” he wrote.
“So city council met to decide how to move forward. I suggested that the city manager be put on administrative leave until the investigation was complete since he is the one presumed to be the aggressor, and the one the grievance is filed against. That was met with strong opposition by some on council, even though with Ms Heggins letting the attorneys know, and the attorneys informing council in advance that she was basically afraid of this man. So much so that after the incident her assistant had to escort her every time she left her office in fear of running into the city manager. The decision by city council in my opinion to not put the manager on administrative leave created a huge ignored liability for the city.”