WASHINGTON — Washington. -- Is there anything worse than an official of the financially strapped NAACP secretly using the organization's money to try to buy the silence of a woman who claims she was involved in ''an adulterous relationship'' with the NAACP executive director?
It is frighteningly worse that some supporters of executive director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. and NAACP chairman William F. Gibson are now using threats and smear tactics to try to destroy their critics.
Several state-conference presidents and branch leaders have called for the resignation or ouster of Dr. Chavis and Dr. Gibson in the wake of revelations that Dr. Chavis signed a $332,400 ''settlement'' with former NAACP employee Mary E. Stansel to induce her to drop legal actions accusing him of sexual misconduct.
Dr. Gibson and Dr. Chavis have sent misleading and lying letters to hundreds of NAACP officials. Their cronies have telephoned NAACP branch leaders all over the country saying that critics of Dr. Chavis' actions in trying to pay off Ms. Stansel have violated the ''black code of ethics'' -- to wit, ''black people do not squeal on black leaders.''
Dr. Chavis has branded me a ''traitor'' for revealing some of the hTC many documents I possess which expose arrogant malfeasance and misuse of NAACP funds during his tenure.
I am appalled by efforts to hold NAACP officials to a ''black code of ethics.'' This sounds like the ''no squeal'' pledges crooked cops use to protect each other in cities beset by police corruption.
Federal Judge Damon Keith of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday wrote every NAACP board member asking them to require the resignation of both Dr. Chavis and Dr. Gibson.
Is he, too, a ''traitor?'' Judge Keith won the NAACP's most prestigious award, the Spingarn Medal, in 1974, and through the Detroit Freedom Fund Dinner has for years been one of the greatest fund-raisers for the NAACP.
An example of the ruthless effectiveness of ''The Tribe'' that shields Dr. Gibson and Dr. Chavis is the campaign to destroy Greg Evans, a Eugene, Oregon, banker and president of the Washington/Oregon State Conference of Branches of the NAACP.
After hearing of Dr. Chavis paying ''hush money'' to Ms. Stansel, Mr. Evans wrote to Dr. Gibson on August 1:
''The NAACP faces a crisis in leadership, finances and integrity. . . . Allegations of sexual misconduct, financial malfeasance and the lack of proper disclosure of the activities of the Executive Director/CEO must be addressed fully and truthfully. I believe the time has come for the Executive Director and the Chairman to resign for the general welfare of the organization.''
The Gibson-Chavis response was to attack Mr. Evans for doing ''a great disservice to the NAACP.'' The Rev. Howard Johnson of Roseberg, Oregon, president of his branch, and Phil Pleasant of Yakima, Washington, both told me that they were telephoned by Gibson supporters asking them to help throw Mr. Evans out of office and out of the NAACP and ''make an example of him.''
Dr. Chavis and Dr. Gibson have resorted to the argument the Stansel payoff is being used as a ''plot'' and that ''non-African-Americans'' are out to oust them so whites, especially Jews, can take over the NAACP. Dr. Chavis said Monday that ''forces outside the African-American community'' were out to get him because of his alliance with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
He knows that during the furor over his inviting Mr. Farrakhan to his July ''summit'' conference, I was virtually alone among newsmen in writing that he had a right to do so.
I got some mean criticism for defending Dr. Chavis on this point.
Yet now in his desperation Dr. Chavis insinuates that I am fronting for Jews and other whites.
I am simply trying to stop him and his board chairman from destroying an organization that late, great men like Roy Wilkins and Thurgood Marshall once made a gigantic force in efforts to liberate black Americans from Jim Crow and myriad other injustices.
I say to all NAACP board members for the third time: ''Stop the Gibson-Chavis use of mob tactics and the internal corruption, and save the NAACP by throwing Dr. Gibson and Dr. Chavis out!''
8, Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.