Federal court is asked to order audit of NAACP

January 19, 1995|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers David Michael Ettlin and Brad Snyder contributed to this article.

Seven officials of the NAACP asked a federal court in Baltimore yesterday to strip board Chairman William F. Gibson of his control over the organization's finances and to order an independent audit of the fiscally crippled civil rights group.

The seven plaintiffs -- national board members and trustees -- also asked the court to dismiss Dr. Gibson if he hinders the accounting.

In a 22-page document filed in U.S. District Court, NAACP officials repeated many allegations made by newspaper columnist Carl T. Rowan that Dr. Gibson squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The group, led by C. DeLores Tucker, a trustee of the NAACP Special Contribution Fund, says Dr. Gibson "improperly spent without replacement" $1 million in pension funds and more than $400,000 in grant funds.

"We have tried to resolve this crisis internally, but Mr. Gibson has used his dictatorial style of directing this organization as his own private club," said Dr. Tucker, a former Pennsylvania secretary of state who ran unsuccessfully for the national NAACP board last year as an opponent of the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., then executive director.

Dr. Gibson could not be reached for comment last night.

But one of his staunchest allies, T. H. Poole Sr., said Dr. Gibson's critics filed the complaint because they do not have the support of the 64-member board to defeat him in next month's NAACP elections.

"They want to be in charge and they will say and do anything," said Mr. Poole, a board member who is chairman of the branches and Image Awards committees.

"It takes 43 votes to remove the chairman, and they don't have them."

The officials say they filed the legal action asking for an audit, in part, to clear themselves of any liability for misspent money.

The other petitioners -- also outspoken opponents of Dr. Gibson -- are national board members and trustees Julian Bond, Hazel N. Dukes, Joseph E. Madison, Enolia P. McMillan, Marc Stepp and Menola Upshaw.

Crippled by a $4 million debt, the organization furloughed 88 employees for four weeks in October.

Public confidence in the 85-year-old civil rights group was shaken last summer by an internal upheaval stemming from a secret deal by then-Executive Director Chavis to use $332,400 in organization money to settle a sexual harassment suit against him.

The board of directors voted unanimously Oct. 15 to begin an independent audit of the organization's financial records from January 1989 through August 1994.

"We believe [Dr. Gibson] has been stonewalling to prevent that process from occurring," said Ferguson Evans, one of three lawyers who filed the federal court request. "We are asking the court to force the issue."

An administrator at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which has its headquarters in Baltimore, disputed that contention, saying that an independent audit will be conducted.

"We've received at least three bids from three independent auditing companies," Fred H. Rasheed, the administrator, said yesterday.

"There will be a decision made in the next several days" as to who will perform the audit, he said.

Mr. Rasheed said the national office has not been notified of the court action.

The group's charges are based substantially on Mr. Rowan's allegations and other news reports of alleged funds misuse by Dr. Gibson.

They cite Mr. Rowan's reports, based on unnamed sources, that state Dr. Gibson "double-dipped" by collecting at least $300,000 in reimbursements for expenses he had already charged to an NAACP credit card.

Mr. Rowan said Dr. Gibson's "improper practices" have been going on since 1986, one year after he took over the board's chairmanship, the petition states.

Dr. Tucker said it was essential to file the action quickly because of continuing erosion of support for the NAACP.

"I know of five states that have already taken a position that Mr. Gibson remove himself from office, and also that they will not send any more money to the national office until he is removed," she said.

She said any members of the national board who are "solidly behind" Dr. Gibson should also be removed from their positions.

But Mr. Poole said most of the board supports Dr. Gibson, not the seven petitioners.

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