OUR VIEW: It's time to clean up

Sep. 23, 2013 @ 09:40 AM

Good grief. What a mess.

Half of council members are calling for the mayor to resign. Some are calling for Councilman Foster Douglas to step down.

The mayor says she's not going anywhere. Douglas isn't saying anything.

Four council members made these calls for resignations by writing letters to the editor Friday.We published them on this page Saturday. 

On one hand, we're proud that our hometown paper is the place to get a message out to the community.

On the other, this shows us these people aren't united as a team. And they're not  communicating with their leader.

They wrote that they are flooded with questions from the community wanting to know what's going on with Mayor Bernita Sims and Douglas. And what council is doing about it.

At the council meeting Monday, it was business as usual. An Eagle Scout was honored for his community project. The mayor  recognized a group of hard working individuals struggling with addictions and council passed an incentives offer to a European furniture company looking to locate in High Point.

Then Mayor Bernita Sims called an unscheduled closed session to discuss personnel issues.

After about 15 minutes, council returned to chambers and Sims scheduled a review of the city manager.

We don't know what went on behind those closed doors but it apparently it wasn't pretty.

Councilwoman Becky Smothers, in her letter to the editor Saturday, gave us a glimpse of that closed session.

“(Sims) made statements that, to me, clearly indicated that Mayor Sims lacked respect and confidence in council members … I believe our ability to work as a team has been seriously damaged by the mayor's comments to us. ... The lack of communication and explanation by Mayor Sims as well as the absence of resolution had challenged the stability and credibility of our government.”

Here's what's clear from Smother's letters and the others: not only is the public in the dark about what's going on with Sims and Douglas but so are their fellow councilmen.

Sims has an SBI investigation looming over her head for her handling of a family member's estate, allegations of passing a bad check worth $7,000 (a felony charge), she didn't pay a $500 utility bill to the city for several months, and she owes more than $5,000 in state income tax.

Douglas owes more than $17,000 in taxes and $32,000 to the city.

The government is now garnishing their wages they earn leading the city.

The residents of High Point have every right to ask, “What is going on here?”

Some council members have complained they are flooded with calls from constituents asking that question. One said he often gets 20 to 30 voicemails from people asking this question.

We've reported that laundry list of financial troubles in this paper. But we haven't been able to offer an explanation. It's, “Sims declined to comment.” or “Douglas did not return phone messages seeking comment.”

We've said it before, there is no shame in having financial troubles. Most of us have had them. But how  one handles problems shows character and leadership.

Those troubles for these public officials are out there, whether they like it or not.  They are scrutinized and held to a different standard because they are entrusted to lead our community, to represent us. It's time Sims and Douglas tell the people they serve what's going on and how they plan to clean up this mess.