NAACP may delete 4 agencies

June 12, 1995|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

When the NAACP's restructuring plan is finally unveiled, it may contain a formula to abolish four key departments that for years have been instrumental in the organization's civil rights crusades.

The changes at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are intended to help reduce a $3.8 million deficit. Last week a union leader said the Baltimore-based national organization will lay off 22 employees and close three regional offices to save $2.5 million this year.

Details of the restructuring plan were to be announced Friday, according to NAACP officials. As of yesterday, no plan had been released. Acting Executive Director Earl T. Shinhoster was in Atlanta over the weekend, officials said, and could not be reached.

Joseph E. Madison, a national board member, said board members agreed that "there would be no sacred cows" when determining where to cut.

"It's going to be painful, no question about it," said Mr. Madison, a talk show host in Washington, D.C. "It means we're going to have to depend more on local chapters. They won't be able to depend on the national."

He said the cuts would be temporary while the organization reins in spending, which he said became excessive in the past two years.

Sources familiar with the plan said the NAACP will close its education, labor, religious affairs and military affairs departments. Work handled by those departments will be shifted to other employees, whose duties will be redefined.

The education, labor and military departments receive complaints from African-Americans who claim discrimination. Employees at the national office investigate complaints and seek remedies to those problems from schools, employers and military branches.

Education and labor department employees also have supported affirmative action programs, such as the University of Maryland's Benjamin Banneker scholarships for African-American students. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down that program last month.

The religious affairs department helps mobilize supporters in black churches, a traditional source of the NAACP's support.

The NAACP, whose offices are in Northwest Baltimore's Seton Business Park, plans to retain its highly visible Washington office and its housing, economic development, legal and corporate affairs departments.

The national office has struggled despite a leadership shake-up in which the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. was fired as executive director last August and former Chairman William F. Gibson was ousted in February.

Rodney Orange, president of the Baltimore NAACP, said his office receives about 30 discrimination complaints a month. Under the changes, his chapter probably will have to follow up on complaints it sends to the national office, he said.

"I think any time you have a reorganization, particularly of a national, nonprofit organization like the NAACP, it's going to impact upon the local chapters," Mr. Orange said. "The local chapters probably will have to do more investigation."

Mr. Orange said the NAACP has run into problems at a time when complaints of employment discrimination are rising in Baltimore.

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