A Full Audit -- Within 'Parameters'

January 26, 1995|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGTON — Washington. -- Under the pressure of a federal lawsuit designed to strip him of almost all power, NAACP Chairman William F. Gibson has finally permitted the hiring of an outside auditor to investigate his spending and that of other officers of the near-bankrupt civil-rights organization.

During a rancorous telephone conference meeting Sunday night of the Special Audit Committee (chaired by Judge Fred Banks of the Mississippi Supreme Court) and the Executive Committee (chaired by Dr. Gibson), it was agreed that the audit ordered by the full board of directors last October 15 would be performed by Coopers & Lybrand, a firm of impeccable credentials.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that Dr. Gibson and his worried allies moved -- even before signing on Coopers & Lybrand -- to limit ''the parameters of investigation'' to the point that the result would amount to Dr. Gibson perpetrating another fraud upon NAACP members and supporters.

Before Sunday's telephone brawl, Coopers & Lybrand had set out in a January 13 memorandum of understanding to Judge Banks the thoroughness with which it proposed to conduct ''an internal forensic accounting investigation.'' But Dr. Gibson accepted Coopers & Lybrand only after he and his cronies, who dominate the Executive Committee, barred the accounting firm from investigating several areas of NAACP spending.

As I have revealed in this column, Dr. Gibson, T. H. Poole Sr. and a few other board cronies took over the Hollywood Image Awards program four years ago and lost the NAACP $1.4 million. The Hollywood/Beverly Hills branch of the organization recently called for Dr. Gibson's resignation and for return of the Image Awards program to local control.

The chairman has decreed that auditing of the Image Awards expenditures and losses is not within the ''parameters'' of things Coopers & Lybrand is to investigate.

Some NAACP board members have called me to express outrage. Marc Stepp of Detroit told me Tuesday that on January 5 he wrote both Judge Banks and Jerry Maulden, the NAACP treasurer and Budget Committee chairman, demanding an audit the Image Awards. Mr. Stepp said angrily that Mr. Maulden, chairman of Arkansas Power and Light Company, has not replied.

The reading of Mr. Stepp and others of ''the parameters'' dictated by Chairman Gibson, the very man whose spending is most suspect, is that Coopers & Lybrand will not be able to get the facts on how much money the chairman has gotten over a decade from national NAACP funds sent to the South Carolina State Conference while Mr. Gibson has served as both national chairman and South Carolina State Conference president.

Board members say they want Coopers & Lybrand to determine where and when Dr. Gibson was granted a $3,000-a-month stipend plus a right to order ''expense'' checks without an accounting.

NAACP members want to know with what authority Dr. Gibson took a $10,000 ''loan'' from the NAACP, labeling it as a ''travel-expense advance.'' They want to know if Dr. Gibson used the money for personal gain, or for an NAACP office, as he claims.

They ask whose money Dr. Gibson used to get cashier checks of $5,000 and $5,300 that he used as repayment of the ''loan.''

Under the chairman's ''parameters,'' Coopers & Lybrand will not be allowed to investigate and provide answers.

Also outside the Gibson ''parameters'' is a Coopers & Lybrand investigation of how the NAACP came to owe its pension fund a million dollars.

So Coopers & Lybrand has balked, insisting that it will not agree to do an audit where Dr. Gibson or anyone who is a target of the audit holds any control.

Dr. Gibson has ignored suggestions by Judge Banks and others that since he is a prime audit target he recuse himself from a role of having the last word as to who does the audit and what can be audited.

In its letter of ''understanding'' to Judge Banks on January 13, Fredric R. Miller of Coopers & Lybrand said:

''We would rely on the NAACP to provide us with access to the relevant existing and former officers for purposes of obtaining supporting documentation and explanations for financial transactions. We would also be relying on the NAACP to provide us with access to relevant documents including, but not limited to, such documents as American Express invoices, airline invoices, calendars of NAACP events and functions, travel itineraries, general ledgers, cash receipts and disbursement journals, general journals, accounts payable information, board of director minutes, bank statements and canceled checks, invoices and other relevant documents.''

The NAACP board members and others who sued to corral Dr. Gibson last week tell me they will go back into federal court to get an audit that is not tainted by his ''parameters.''

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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