The NAACP Approaches a Saturday Showdown

October 13, 1994|By CARL T. ROWAN

Washington -- At the most fateful NAACP meeting in the organization's 85-year history Saturday, many board members will demand the immediate resignation or ouster of Chairman William F. Gibson.

These board members will charge that during almost a decade as chairman of the non-profit civil-rights organization, Dr. Gibson has squandered without proper approval hundreds of thousands dollars of the organization's meager funds.

Among the furious board members are Charles Butler of Pennsylvania and Marc Stepp of Detroit, both members of the NAACP Budget Committee. They say Dr. Gibson's charge-account spending and his receipt of $2,800 monthly fTC checks from Baltimore headquarters never came before the Budget Committee.

The board's audit commission, chaired by Fred Banks, of Jackson, Mississippi, was not informed of Dr. Gibson's many car and truck rentals, lavish hotel expenditures or questionable air travel -- all at the expense of an NAACP that was going deep into debt.

Judge Banks is due in Baltimore today to check on the validity of American Express charges and the disposition of checks paid to Dr. Gibson that were first made public in my column.

Board members have expressed disbelief and then outrage at the charges billed to the NAACP monthly by Dr. Gibson. In August 1990, for example, Dr. Gibson charged almost $5,000 in hotel bills, more than $1,700 for airline tickets, $660 to the All Express Limo & Cab Co. in Atlanta and $312.38 for a car rental in his home town, Greenville, South Carolina.

Then he collected thousands of dollars from the NAACP for unspecified ''expenses'' during the same period.

Some board members tell me that in addition to calling for Dr. Gibson's resignation, they will demand an independent audit to determine if the chairman has committed fraud.

Meanwhile, a group calling itself ''angry, underpaid, rolled-back, furloughed NAACP staff'' has faxed to board members a charge that revelations of Dr. Gibson's spending will hurt the NAACP more than ''the assaults of bigots, the Klan and all others.'' These staff members say they are shocked and outraged'' by reports of Dr. Gibson's ''unconscionable spending of more in one month than some of us make in six months.''

The employees, who must take an unpaid two-week furlough before the end of the year, are demanding that Dr. Gibson and certain named board members resign and repay money spent or improperly charged to the struggling NAACP.

As this fateful meeting approaches, I want to emphasize the fact that most members of the NAACP board and staff are impeccably honest. Some board members say they are acutely embarrassed that they never knew of the spending of Dr. Gibson and his hand-picked, recently fired executive director, Benjamin Chavis.

All but hopelessly intimidated or crony-ized NAACP board and staff members are now working feverishly to make the internal reforms demanded by the Ford Foundation and the many religious, civic, corporate and other groups that want to continue their support of the NAACP.

But past and would-be supporters of the NAACP are almost unanimous in saying that Dr. Gibson must go -- and that once he resigns or is ousted, everyone can have faith that the budget, audit, executive and other committees are carrying out their fiduciary duties and protecting the monies donated.

The NAACP has survived many crises, but none more critical to its future than the one to be fought out Saturday.

8, Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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