High Point Councilman Might Not Have To Pay Debt

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Councilman Foster Douglas owes the city of High Point $32,000.

It's a debt that's gone unpaid for more than a decade.

Douglas has only paid $400 and that might be all the money the city ever sees.

Douglas filed personal bankruptcy in December and his case is now being considered in federal court.

Recent filings show a proposed payment plan without any money going to the city of High Point. In the proposed plan, Douglas would pay $1,125 each month to the trustee on his case - who would then pay Bank of America, the North Carolina Department of Revenue and the IRS.

Douglas' attorney also filed a motion to avoid the lien the city has on his property. The motion reads, "Because the total aggregate of the liens and the value of the exemption is $176,922 which exceeds the value of the Debtor's interest in the property by $84,922, and because that sum equals or exceeds the amount of the lien of $32,216 sought to be avoided, the Respondent's lien may be completely avoided..."

That means, if a judge approves the motion, Douglas will no longer owe the city.

WFMY News 2's Morgan Hightower called each of Douglas' fellow council members to see what they had to say about the city possibly losing $32,000.

Councilwoman Becky Smothers said "Not surprised he's seeking to avoid payment. He's effectively done that for the last number of years."

She added, "Bankruptcy is an extreme way to avoid a legal and ethical duty to the city. Douglas hasn't shared any information he previously said he would with the council, so I have no idea what his motivation is."

Councilman Jim Davis said "it would be disappointing" to lose that money.

"Taxpayers and council would love to collect the debt but ultimately it's in the judge's hand," explained Councilman Davis.

After consulting with outside counsel, the city attorney recommends the city not appeal the motion.

She says cities have lost cases like this in the past. WFMY News 2 reached out to the city manager about what he plans to do but he has not returned our calls.

In 2003, a federal judge ordered Douglas and his brother, Jerry Douglas, to pay the legal fees of the city of High Point after losing a suit against them. It was only $19,000 then but that debt grew to more than $32,000 with interest.

This debt was brought to light last summer when Douglas asked the city to pay his way to a conference in Seattle.That didn't happen. Instead, the city took action to get the money its due.

Guilford County Sheriff deputies had to serve Douglas at City Hall -- after five failed attempts to reach him at his home on Scientific Street. That happened in September.

In December, his home was scheduled to be auctioned to pay down his debt but the day before that sell was supposed to happen, Douglas filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy.


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