The NAACP Goes on Hiatus

November 02, 1994|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGTON — Washington. -- Embattled NAACP Chairman William F. Gibson and the executive committee have virtually closed down the civil-rights organization because it cannot meet its payroll.

After an emergency telephone conference Saturday, 89 NAACP employees at 10 locations across the nation were notified not to report to work Monday.

They were informed that all employees, except 29 receiving special grants from foundations and corporations, were being taken off the payroll for at least three weeks because of ''a lack of cash flow.''

Affected by the shutdown are NAACP national headquarters in Baltimore, the Washington bureau, special offices in New York and New Jersey, and regional offices in Baltimore, California, Detroit, St. Louis, Atlanta and Dallas. The annual payroll for these 89 workers is about $3.2 million, a sum slightly less than the current NAACP deficit.

Fred Rasheed, administrator of the nation's oldest civil-rights organization, confirmed to me yesterday that NAACP headquarters was being kept open by volunteers and workers on special grants.

He said there is no guarantee that employees will be put back on the payroll after this furlough, because corporate and foundation gifts to the NAACP are running about $1.2 million below last year.

Mr. Rasheed also confirmed that even as the NAACP's fiscal crisis deepens, another woman has filed with the Maryland Equal Opportunities Commission a claim that she was subjected to sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and pay inequity when she worked as a lawyer for the organization.

The already troubled NAACP fell into deep crisis last July when it was revealed in this column that then-executive director, Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., had committed $332,400 of NAACP funds as ''hush money'' for a former employee, Mary Stansel, who accused Dr. Chavis of firing her ''at the end of an adulterous relationship.'' The board fired Dr. Chavis and the NAACP is now demanding that he repay $25,000 for purchases of clothing, toys and other personal items that he charged to his NAACP American Express credit card over 18 months.

The fiscal crisis deepened further after I revealed on the basis of hundreds of documents in my possession that Chairman William F. Gibson had abused his NAACP credit card in outlandish ways over a nine-year period. During a stormy board meeting October 15, Dr. Gibson was allowed to keep his post pending an ''independent, external audit.''

I learned yesterday that the independent audit of Dr. Gibson's credit-card charges and hundreds of thousands of dollars in NAACP ''reimbursement'' checks has not yet begun because of lack of funds to pay auditors.

But the AFL-CIO tells me it has guaranteed $25,000, once it learns that a reputable firm has been chosen to do a thorough audit -- ''and our money won't go down a rat hole.''

The hope expressed at the AFL-CIO and in dozens of calls that I got yesterday is that ''Dr. Gibson absolutely has to go.''

Despite more court troubles to come, the external audit and other fiscal controls now being installed may be the key to saving the NAACP. An authoritative Ford Foundation source told me yesterday that to help keep the civil-rights group alive it may soon release the $500,000 that it has pledged.

That would allow some employees to return to the payroll. It would also restore some faith in this once-vital civil-rights group. But a resignation by Dr. Gibson would do even more to make foundations and corporations renew their support.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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