A Raft of Writs Crushes the NAACP

January 05, 1995|By CARL T. ROWAN

Washington -- NAACP chairman William F. Gibson has launched a propaganda drive to convince delegates to the February meetings that the civil-rights organization can survive under his leadership. Nothing can be further from the truth.

The NAACP will soon succumb under the weight of lawsuits brought on -- and ignored -- during Dr. Gibson's tenure. The nation's once-great civil rights organization has been sued for millions of dollars in damages for alleged breaches of contracts, sexual harassment, sexual pay discrimination, libel, infliction of mental distress, failure to pay bills and more.

Tragically, the NAACP has neither the money nor the manpower with which to defend itself.

The top lawyers and law-school deans who once proudly defended the NAACP pro bono now run from the organization because of Dr. Gibson's despotic leadership. The noted Washington law firm Wilmer Cutler and Pickering recently stopped giving legal help to the NAACP because Dr. Gibson refused to take any advice.

NAACP staffers tell me that Dr. Gibson insists on believing that he can stonewall the audit of his personal spending that the NAACP board ordered October 15, manipulate the elections scheduled for mid-February, and still win re-election as chairman.

I have a memorandum dated December 13, 1994, to NAACP general counsel Dennis C. Hayes from the organization's West Coast counsel Nyisha Shakur in which she pleads for timely attention to several lawsuits and warns that the NAACP ''cannot remain in legal limbo.''

Ms. Shakur's concern involves mostly disputes arising from the Hollywood Image Awards programs through which the NAACP lost well over $2 million after it was taken over by Dr. Gibson and his chief crony T. H. Poole, a Florida bail bondsman.

In one case, Thomas v. NAACP, TV producer Maynell Thomas seeks at least $350,000 on grounds of breach of contract and assorted other alleged NAACP offenses in connection with the Image Awards.

Ms. Shakur warned that the NAACP is also a defendant in ''a $24 million libel action filed in Northern California.'' She said the organization must purchase deposition transcripts and ''take additional deposition testimony to prepare for trial. I have previously requested funds for same but have not received any response.''

Meanwhile, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel has threatened to sue the NAACP for $10,599.16 in allegedly unpaid 1994 Image

Awards charges. Ms. Shakur suggests the NAACP might want to pay up out of a $30,000 balance (as of November) in an Image Awards account at a City National Bank in the Los Angeles metro area that was controlled by Mr. Poole.

Then there is the New York collection agency, Communications Credit & Recovery Corp., which demands $8,500 allegedly owed to Tribune Entertainment Co. for an Image Awards TV ad that was run on the popular dance show ''Soul Train.''

Bigger, costlier legal troubles loom on the East Coast. A trial nears over the claim of a former NAACP employee, Mary Stansel, that the NAACP's former executive director, Benjamin Chavis, ''wooed and pursued me'' and fired her ''after the adulterous relationship ended.''

Ms. Stansel received $82,400 in hush money, including $12,700 from the NAACP's tax-exempt Special Contributions Fund. Last July she asked the D.C. Superior Court to grant her an additional $245,200 plus ''just and appropriate relief, plus all attorneys' fees.''

Some members -- including NAACP trustee C. Delores Tucker -- say they will soon file suit to oust Dr. Gibson on grounds that he and Dr. Chavis abused and jeopardized the Special Contributions Fund's tax exemption.

Meanwhile, another legal bombshell looms. Attorney Howard J. Needle, of Owings Mills, has warned members that he will go to court if the organization does not settle the claims of ''sexual discrimination . . . breach of contract, intentional misrepresentation, and possible fraud'' brought by Barbara Coggins, director of the NAACP's ACT-SO youth program.

Ms. Coggins claims that she has been paid ''much less than is budgeted for her salary, and the difference is apparently misappropriated.'' Ms. Coggins has been paid out of Ford Foundation funds granted on the basis of a budget that shows her getting some $50,000 yearly. Mr. Needle says she received only $32,000 per year.

Several other lawsuits -- actual or pending -- make it clear that the economic woes of the NAACP are piling up, not diminishing. There isn't a ghost of a chance that the national NAACP can survive unless Dr. Gibson heeds the cries of a growing number of members that he resign -- immediately.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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