New Crisis at the NAACP

October 09, 1994

When the NAACP national board of directors ousted Executive Director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. last August for secretly settling a sex discrimination suit with organization funds, we suspected Mr. Chavis' downfall might foreshadow the fate of his patron and mentor, NAACP Board Chairman William F. Gibson. Now it appears the other shoe may indeed be about to drop.

Syndicated columnist Carl Rowan has quoted unnamed sources who accuse the board chairman of "double-dipping" thousands of dollars in expense reimbursements from the civil rights group and using an NAACP credit card to finance a pattern of lavish spending that has drained the group's coffers of well over $500,000 since 1986. There has been no independent verification of Mr. Rowan's charges. Dr. Gibson has strenuously denied misusing NAACP funds.

The latest revelations are yet another blow to the NAACP's tattered public image in the wake of the Chavis ouster. The organization has been struggling to cope with a $3.5 million deficit, and some corporate donors have withheld contributions until the situation clarifies. The NAACP is currently suing Dr. Chavis to get him to repay the $82,400 he used to settle a sexual-discrimination claim by his former assistant, Mary E. Stansel. The allegations against Mr. Gibson will make it even more difficult for the NAACP to raise money to get its financial house in order.

The nation's oldest civil rights organization thus has come to a sad pass indeed. Beset by financial woes and uncertain of its mission in the post-civil rights era, the group is being dragged down and its reputation sullied by the reckless conduct of its own leaders. Meanwhile, Dr. Gibson says he will not step down and that he retains the confidence of a majority of the board of directors. If that is true, and the organization does not act to repair the damage its former executive director and chairman have done, it will be a long time before the NAACP is again the national force that it once was.

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