NAACP says Chavis owes $25,000 in credit charges

October 25, 1994|By James Bock | James Bock,Sun Staff Writer

The NAACP said yesterday that the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., who was fired two months ago as the organization's executive director, owes the civil rights group $25,000 to $30,000 for personal expenses charged on two corporate credit cards.

Despite a settlement agreement released yesterday, in which Dr. Chavis dropped all claims against the NAACP in connection with his firing, NAACP officials and the former $200,000-a-year executive director continued to snipe at each other.

In the settlement, Dr. Chavis agreed to repay any personal expenses charged to the NAACP, plus 8 percent interest, after an auditor named by the organization reviews the accounts. Any travel expenses owed to Dr. Chavis would be deducted.

NAACP officials would not specify the disputed expenses, but Dr. Chavis said in an interview that they included photographic equipment that he bought in Belgium and used on an official visit to Gabon in Africa. He said much of the spending was business-related.

The NAACP also said that it was ordering its 2,200 branches, college chapters and youth councils not to allow the 46-year-old former leader to speak at official functions while he is engaged in litigation involving the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"We hope Dr. Chavis exercises the common courtesy and decency to allow the NAACP to go its way as he has indicated he will go his way," said Dennis Courtland Hayes, NAACP general counsel.

"We see him as a divisive element."

But Dr. Chavis said that he would continue to speak when invited, including an appearance today at Syracuse University that is partly sponsored by the NAACP chapter there.

"We live in a free society, and I do not intend to give up my free speech because the general counsel is uncomfortable," Dr. Chavis said. "There's nothing in the agreement that bars me. Who's being divisive here?"

In the agreement, Dr. Chavis drops all claims against the NAACP. He had filed suit against the organization two days after being fired Aug. 20, contending that the group used improper procedures in dismissing him.

He also drops the claims he filed against the NAACP in defending himself against a lawsuit brought by Mary E. Stansel, a former Chavis aide.

In the Stansel suit, Dr. Chavis had asked for $450,000 in damages to compensate for salary and benefits that he said the NAACP owed him on the balance of his three-year contract, plus $750,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, according to court documents.

Instead, as reported in The Sun yesterday, Dr. Chavis settled for:

* Six months of continued health insurance and life insurance coverage at NAACP expense.

* Two $3,700 monthly mortgage payments to be made by the NAACP on his Ellicott City home.

The NAACP characterized the settlement as humanitarian assistance to the unemployed Dr. Chavis and his family. Mr. Hayes said the NAACP had agreed to pay out a total of $12,300.

Dr. Chavis bitterly contended that he would have received nothing if he had not sued.

He also questioned the NAACP's remaining as the beneficiary on half his $1 million life insurance policy.

"If somebody kills me or I die in an accident, they collect $500,000," he said.

"I'm certainly going to be careful how I cross the street, particularly if I'm near any high NAACP officials."

Dr. Chavis must repay the NAACP a $76,000 bridge loan (less a $17,308 credit for accrued vacation pay) that he received to help him buy his $478,000 house.

As security, Dr. Chavis has given the NAACP a second mortgage on his home.

The NAACP agreed to let Dr. Chavis keep up to $25,000 of the net proceeds from the sale of a house he owns in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where he lived before he was named executive director in April 1993. Mr. Hayes said the money would allow Dr. Chavis to pay bills while he finds a job.

Dr. Chavis and the NAACP agreed to battle in court over the question of who is liable for up to $332,400 in payments to Ms. Stansel. The ousted executive director made a secret deal in November 1993 with his former aide, who had threatened him with a sexual harassment lawsuit. When the NAACP board learned about it eight months later, the deal proved to be Dr. Chavis' undoing.

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