High Point, N.C. - He has sat at the table while the city has made tough budget decisions, earned a salary from the city and gone on out-of-state government trips at the city's expense. Sounds like your typical council member, right? However, High Point City Councilman Foster Douglas owes the city of High Point more than $32,000.
Foster Douglas has owed High Point that money for a decade. But, he has refused to pay it.
When WFMY News 2's Mark Geary spoke to him on the phone, he said he had no comment right now and everything would be explained at Monday's city council meeting.
Back in 2003, Douglas and his brother lost a lawsuit they filed against the city that alleged civil rights violations. A judge ordered Douglas and his brother to pay the legal fees the city had to shell out to defend itself from the allegations....at the time, it was just under $20,000. Now, Douglas owes interest, which brings his total to more than $32,000.
This has been a controversial subject since voters elected Douglas back in 2008. It flared back up again because Douglas requested to go on $2500, city-paid trip to the National League of Cities Conference in Seattle. Emails obtained by WFMY News 2 from High Point Council Members show Douglas' peers are upset about that request.
Council Member Judy Mendenhall wrote, "I have a difficult time accepting his wish to spend this kind of money on a trip that none of the rest of us plan to attend...especially since he voted against the budget due to his concern about our spending."
Council Member Jason Ewing told WFMY News 2, "To have a policy maker for the city sitting there that owes tens of thousands of dollars, it certainly hurts to know there's that debt right there that can't be collected."
Since he was elected in 2008, the city has paid Douglas more than $60,000 in salary, plus allowance and travel expenses. The city manager has also written Douglas multiple polite letters and emails asking him to pay his debt. In addition, The Guilford County Tax Department says Douglas has not paid his vehicle tax bill. It's now overdue.
The High Point City Council will talk about Douglas' debt and the council travel policy at its meeting on Monday. State lawmakers are also working on a bill that would allow cities to garnish the wages of council members who owe money to a city.
WFMY News 2