Chavis, Gibson urged to quit NAACP

August 04, 1994|By James Bock | James Bock,Sun Staff Writer

A West Coast NAACP leader called yesterday for the resignations of Executive Director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. and Board Chairman William F. Gibson, saying the civil rights group's image had been "severely damaged" by a secret deal to pay a fired employee up to $332,400.

"It is time to end the public and private rancor and controversy," Greg Evans, Washington-Oregon state NAACP president, wrote in a letter to Dr. Gibson. "It is time to re-establish and rebuild the credibility, integrity and financial stability of the NAACP."

Mr. Evans, a 33-year-old banker in Eugene, Ore., urged branches in his area to withhold all payments to NAACP headquarters in Baltimore pending an independent audit of the group's finances. The NAACP has a deficit of nearly $3 million.

Terhea A. Washington, a spokesperson for Dr. Chavis, said the 46-year-old executive director has not considered resigning. She said he was "trying to focus on the work of the NAACP as much as is possible in the midst of so much attention given to this issue."

The organization has been wracked by controversy upon learning that Dr. Chavis -- unknown to his board of directors -- settled a threatened sex discrimination and harassment lawsuit in November with Mary E. Stansel, a former aide. He said he agreed to pay her off to "protect the NAACP from exposure to false and slanderous allegations."

The controversial deal came to light only after Ms. Stansel, a 49-year-old lawyer, filed suit against Dr. Chavis and the NAACP June 30 in District of Columbia Superior Court.

Ms. Stansel was paid between $77,000 and $82,400 from November to May. But she alleges in her suit that, after failing to help her find an $80,000-a-year job, Dr. Chavis reneged on his agreement to pay her an additional $250,000, as provided in the settlement.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has countersued, contending that the former Capitol Hill legislative aide overstated her qualifications and didn't make a good-faith effort to find a job.

Ms. Stansel has not been available for comment.

Ms. Washington wouldn't discuss details of the case. "Everything that we plan to say, we've said. The matter still has to be litigated in a court of law. Certain things we can't say," she said.

Dr. Gibson has summoned the 64-member board to an emergency meeting on the Stansel case Aug. 20 in Baltimore.

Some board members are upset that neither they nor the NAACP's general counsel was consulted before Dr. Chavis settled with Ms. Stansel. The board chairman says Dr. Chavis acted within his "executive authority."

William Lucy, an influential board member who is international secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said that since the deal was made in November, the full board has met three times.

"We acted on a budget and adopted several financial reports. Why were we not told here was a potential liability?"

"I don't want to say they misled the board, but they haven't informed us," he said.

Rodney Orange, president of the Baltimore NAACP, said the responsibility for the board's ignorance of the Stansel deal lies mainly with Dr. Gibson, who says Dr. Chavis told him of the threatened lawsuit.

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