Chavis is sued by NAACP for $82,400 paid to accuser

September 22, 1994|By James Bock | James Bock,Sun Staff Writer

The NAACP has sued former Executive Director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. for $82,400, saying that the NAACP board never authorized him to commit the organization's funds to settle a onetime aide's claim of sexual harassment.

The board fired Dr. Chavis Aug. 20 in the biggest internal upheaval in the 85-year history of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. It dumped the 46-year-old leader after learning that he made a secret deal to pay Mary E. Stansel up to $332,400 in NAACP funds. Ms. Stansel actually received $82,400 before the NAACP and Dr. Chavis parted ways.

Now the NAACP is arguing in District of Columbia Superior Court that Dr. Chavis "had no authority" to make the deal without the board's prior approval. It alleges that he violated his fiduciary duty to the NAACP by secretly making the agreement when he had a "personal financial stake in avoiding Ms. Stansel's claims."

"If NAACP is held liable for all or any part of Ms. Stansel's claim, then Dr. Chavis is liable to NAACP for that amount," the NAACP said in a cross-claim filed in the Stansel case.

The Baltimore-based civil rights group has also sued Ms. Stansel for restitution of the $82,400 she received, on the grounds that Dr. Chavis wasn't authorized to pay her on the NAACP's behalf.

The NAACP contends that Ms. Stansel's claims were groundless and says the $82,400 she received came entirely from NAACP funds. Before Dr. Chavis was fired, NAACP officials said $18,400 of the payments had come from unspecified "friends" of the NAACP.

Dr. Chavis, who was paid $200,000 a year plus expenses and TC housing allowance, has sued the NAACP for allegedly violating its bylaws in the way it fired him. The NAACP has denied that the firing was improper.

Lawyers for both sides have held settlement talks, but no progress has been reported. An Oct. 24 hearing for the Chavis suit has been scheduled in D.C. Superior Court.

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