High Point councilman: Director’s grievance related to credit card payments

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Al Heggins
Al Heggins

A scathing email sent from Councilman Foster Douglas to Mayor Bernita Sims and fellow members of the High Point City Council yesterday ties a grievance filed by Human Relations Director Al Heggins against then-City Manager Strib Boynton to a disagreement over the handling of American Express credit card payments for a conference.

Douglas writes in the email that his fellow council members ignored his suggestion to put the city manager on administrative leave while the grievance was investigated. Boynton announced his retirement in April, and put in his last day at the High Point Municipal Building yesterday. Douglas contends in the email that the mayor and city council forced the manager out, but Boynton says he retired voluntarily.

“The grievance filed against the manager by Al Heggins on or around about February 14, 2014, as we were told, stemmed from his usage of the city’s American Express credit card to pay for [the] human relations department’s travel and hotel reservations for all attendees of those scheduled conferences that included some members of her family, that attended the conference as chaperones,” Douglas wrote. “After paying for these trips the two previous years at a cost of 50 to 70 thousand dollars without city council’s approval, which was an unauthorized usage of the city’s American Express card.

“I recall it being discussed that Al Heggins was fearful of the manager after she had to go the emergency room of an apparent panic attack that was alleged to be caused by the manager,” Douglas continues. “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. Again, no moral courage to do what’s right to protect the city.”

Heggins and Boynton declined to comment on the matter.