Stansel Said Chavis 'Wooed, Pursued' Her

August 09, 1994|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGTON — Washington.--I have documents showing that NAACP executive director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. signed a $332,400 ''settlement'' with Mary E. Stansel after he learned that she was about to file a legal charge that he ''wooed and pursued me'' and that she was fired ''only after the adulterous relationship ended.''

Dr. Chavis used at least $64,000 of NAACP funds as initial ''hush'' payments even though six weeks earlier he had authorized a letter to the Labor Department contending that ''Ms. Stansel has not at any time during [Dr. Chavis'] tenure been an employee of the NAACP.''

Dr. Chavis rushed into the costly settlement after Rose M. Sanders, a Selma, Ala., lawyer, wrote to say she was ''amazed'' that the NAACP was claiming that Ms. Stansel was never hired. The lawyer added, ''Unfortunately, I think this matter will be resolved to the detriment of all concerned, especially the NAACP.''

Ms. Sanders faxed to Ms. Stansel, at 11:42 a.m. on Oct. 25, 1993, corrected language that Ms. Stansel was to use in an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission) claim of ''employment discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful discharge'' under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Paragraph 5 of the language faxed by Ms. Sanders has Ms. Stansel alleging, ''Prior to my being hired by the NAACP, Dr. Chavis asked me to use my contacts, expertise and services to help him secure the directorship of the NAACP. He also promised to pay all expenses incurred by me during his campaign for selection. Dr. Chavis intentionally wooed and pursued me to achieve my consent and involvement in his campaign, and my termination came only after the adulterous relationship ended.''

Ms. Stansel declined my request for an interview.

She hired lawyer Kenneth Shepherd, who wrote Dr. Chavis' lawyer, Bridnetta Edwards, that ''a full elaboration of the sensitive details underlying the claims is unnecessary since it is known to Dr. Chavis and Ms. Stansel. Dr. Chavis is in a position to appreciate his exposure.''

The documents in my possession make it clear that Dr. Chavis lied during his press conference here Thursday when he claimed that sexual harassment was never an issue. He quoted Ms. Sanders as writing on July 7 that Ms. Stansel did not have a sexual-harassment case, but did not mention her other letters or that she had provided language for Ms. Stansel's EEOC complaint -- then had abandoned efforts to find an amicable settlement because she did not want to be the lawyer to bring Dr. Chavis down.

Ms. Sanders' office said she was hospitalized and that her staff ''cannot confirm anything . . . not even our fax number.''

Dr. Chavis knew that Ms. Stansel's lawyer, Kenneth Shepherd, wrote NAACP board chairman William F. Gibson on October 12, 1993, a month before the settlement, warning that NAACP officials other than Dr. Chavis might be listed as defendants in Ms. Stansel's claim of ''breach of contract, intentional infliction of mental harm and emotional distress, employment discrimination based on her sex, sexual harassment and wrongful discharge.''

I make no judgment as to the merits of any of these charges against Dr. Chavis or others at the NAACP. I do ask, as do many NAACP board members, on what basis he could use NAACP funds to buy the silence of a woman he was claiming had never been an NAACP employee? And why was Dr. Chavis using outside lawyers in all the hush proceedings, keeping the NAACP staff counsel in the dark?

I repeat that to save the NAACP both Dr. Chavis and Dr. Gibson must be ousted. Dr. Gibson, who at one point said he approved the hush-money payments, is now claiming he knew nothing about the ''settlement'' with Ms. Stansel until eight months after the secret deal was made.

Several board members have telephoned me to say that at an emergency meeting August 20 they will fight any effort by Dr. Gibson to throw Dr. Chavis out while retaining his iron lock on the organization.

Meanwhile, Ms. Stansel has pending in a Washington, D.C., Superior Court a demand that the NAACP pay her ''$245,200, and any other just and appropriate relief that the court may grant, plus the costs of this action and past and future attorneys' fees, as provided for in the agreement.''

If Dr. Chavis and Dr. Gibson really give a damn about the NAACP they will resign, and Dr. Chavis can pay any judgment against him with his own money.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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