High Point Journal: High Point city manager announces retirement amidst investigation

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strib_boynton_image1by Jordan Green

After 16 years in the position, High Point’s city manager is retiring.

Strib Boynton announced plans to step down in less than two months in a letter to city council on April 24, citing “family, and other opportunities and responsibilities needing my time and attention.”

Boynton said he had been planning on retiring earlier in the year, but some council members urged him to postpone the date in order to complete several projects, including securing approval to close a portion of Montlieu Avenue to allow High Point University to proceed with plans for a new pharmacy school, retain the city’s AAA bond ratings, and lay the groundwork for future commercial, light industrial and residential development in the Interstate 74 and NC Highway 66 corridors near Kernersville. The Winston-Salem Journal and News & Record reported yesterday that Ralph Lauren Corp. has signed a lease for a new distribution center in corporate mark.

“Together, my staff and I have successfully delivered on each of these [projects],” Boynton wrote.

But Boynton’s retirement also comes on the heels of a sequence of closed-session meetings held by city council over the past 10 weeks to evaluate his leadership. The council hired Raleigh-based law firm Poyner Spruill to investigate a grievance filed against Boynton by Human Relations Director Al Heggins. In early April Heggins and Boynton resolved their dispute and Heggins dropped a complaint filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But the city continued to engage Poyner Spruill beyond the resolution of Heggins’ grievance.

Noting that he will have served High Point longer than any other city manager, Boynton wrote in his letter to council members that he leaves with no “apologies or regrets.”
An Illinois native, Boynton served in several local government roles, including top leadership positions in Fort Smith, Ark., Joplin, Mo. And Urbandale, Iowa before taking the job of city manager for the city of High Point in January 1998.

Boynton earns a salary of $168,168. A clause for termination and severance pay in the city manager’s original contract specified that in the event that Boynton was fired, the city would pay him a lump sum cash payment equal to one month aggregate and all benefits for every year of service capped at six years. In 2006, the council amended Boynton’s contract to lift the cap on his severance pay from six to 12 months.

Boynton’s retirement becomes effective on July 1.

A memorandum of voluntary retirement signed by Boynton and Mayor Bernita Sims stipulates that the city will pay the city manager all wages and benefits, and reimburse him for all “reasonably incurred” business expenses as long as they are properly documented and approved through his retirement date.

Sims and other city council members could not be reached for comment for this article.

“Employee understands and agrees that city’s obligations, under this retirement agreement are contingent on employee’s actual retirement on July 1, 2014,” the document states.

The agreement also commits Boynton to providing assistance to the city in transitioning to a new city manager at no additional expense to the city.

Boynton said in his letter that he is leaving “with a very solid and well respected management team.” Two assistant city managers, Allen Oliver and Randy McCaslin, serve under the city manager.

Despite a loss of manufacturing and external threats to the High Point Furniture Market, the city’s population grew by 41 percent, from 78,100 to 110,000 in 2014, under Boynton’s watch. Boynton said more than 14,000 new housing units have been constructed in the city during that period.

In 2001, city leaders collaborated with furniture manufacturers and showroom owners to create the High Point Market Authority to coordinate planning for the biannual furniture market in the face of an existential threat from Las Vegas.

Boynton also said that under his watch the city recruited new business to High Point through incentives deals that produced 30,000 new jobs and more than $3.6 billion in new private capital investment. He also expressed pride in a nationally recognized intervention and deterrence program developed by the High Point Police Department to reduce drug sales, violent crime and domestic violence.