Answers elusive in mayor’s handling of estate (NC/MD)

HIGH POINT —High Point Mayor Bernita Sims said Tuesday that she has been given more time by a Maryland court to resolve her handling of the estate of a family member.

A civil warrant that a judge was going to issue against her for failing to file an accounting of the estate was held back, she said.

Sims plans to meet with representatives from the Register of Wills for Prince George’s County, Maryland, later this month to finalize the distribution of the estate of her sister, Virginia Sims, a retired school administrator from that county who died in 2008.

Sims is personal representative and trustee of the estate and is responsible for distributing her sister’s property and funds to about 25 relatives. Some of the heirs claim they have not received their full shares of the estate.

The mayor was under a court order to give an account of why she had not distributed funds to one of the heirs: Annie Ponce of High Point, who is Bernita and Virginia Sims’ sister.

Ponce claims that her share of the estate is more than $47,000 but that she has received only a portion of this amount from Sims. Sims was due in court May 23 to explain why she had not distributed the funds.

Sims said she never got notice that she was supposed to appear in court that day.

According to the auditing department of the Register of Wills for Prince George’s County, a “writ warrant” was issued for failure to file an accounting.
Sims said that was not the case.

“There has been no warrant issued,” she said. “There has been no writ or any of that issued for me.”

Sims returned a call to The High Point Enterprise about 5 p.m. Tuesday. Her statements about the warrant contradicted what the Maryland court told the Enterprise earlier in the day. The Enterprise was unable to call the estate auditors back after speaking with Sims because the Register of Wills office had closed for the day.

According to the auditing department, the warrant is a civil order and not a criminal process, so it would not result in arrest if it is served. Such papers typically are served on someone who resides outside of Maryland only if they happen to encounter a law enforcement officer who checks to see whether they have outstanding court papers, according to the Maryland court.

In November 2012, a Maryland judge ordered Sims to advance Ponce a partial distribution of her share of the estate in the amount of $10,000. That month, Sims gave Ponce a check for $7,000. Ponce reported to High Point police in March that the check was returned due to insufficient funds.

A copy of the check shows it was returned because it was written on a closed account at First Bank in High Point.

Police referred Ponce’s allegations to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, where agents launched an investigation that concluded April 23.

The SBI findings were delivered to the District Attorney, who asked that the Special Prosecutions Unit of the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office handle the matter and determine whether to bring charges. No decision had been made yet.


Answers elusive in mayor’s handling of estate
Pat Kimbrough
June 11, 2013
High Point Enterprise