Hunt for NAACP director near end, search panel says 200 people applied for post held by Ben Chavis

October 22, 1995|By James Bock | James Bock,SUN STAFF

The NAACP, which has been without an executive director for 14 months, will wait a bit longer to fill the job.

A search committee told the civil rights group's board of directors yesterday in Baltimore that the "process was in its final stages," said Francisco L. Borges, NAACP treasurer.

"We're not going to have a name today," Mr. Borges said during a break in the board meeting.

Lenny Springs, co-chairman of the search committee, said the panel expected to finish its work in December. He said about 200 people had applied for the job.

"We just could not get the process completed. There was not enough time to get it done," Mr. Springs said.

He said the search committee, which has been working since July, mentioned no candidates' names during its presentation to the board.

The previous executive director, the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., was fired in August 1994 after the board found he had secretly authorized up to $332,400 in NAACP funds to settle a threatened sexual-harassment claim.

In the absence of an executive director, Chairman Myrlie Evers-Williams, who was elected in February, has followed an exhausting schedule of public appearances for the NAACP. Yesterday she was fighting off laryngitis and looked haggard.

"The sooner we can get an executive director, the sooner we can relieve some of the burden and stress off of her, me and the board itself," Mr. Springs said.

The search process has been conducted in secrecy. Mr. Springs would not say how many candidates remain under consideration.

Mr. Borges said the NAACP continues to face a $3.2 million deficit, but that the Baltimore-based organization would take in about $200,000 more than it spends in 1995.

He said the layoff of 21 employees this summer would save the group $1.2 million a year and that closing three regional offices would save another $250,000. The NAACP's 51-member national staff is now smaller than its 64-member board of directors.

Charles Whitehead, treasurer of the NAACP Special Contribution Fund, said the group was receiving enough donations to make more layoffs unnecessary.

Mr. Borges said financial controls were now in place "to ensure this organization does not spend what it does not have."

Under Dr. Chavis and former Chairman William F. Gibson, the NAACP amassed bills that still have not been paid. Mr. Borges said the group was working out payment schedules with creditors.

"We know who's owed what and how long it's been outstanding," he said. "The good news is that painful decisions are beginning to bear fruit. We've got a ways to go, but certainly there has been significant progress."

A special audit released in July found that Dr. Gibson had nearly $112,000 in questionable expenses of NAACP funds. Dr. Gibson contested that finding at yesterday's meeting and met with the NAACP's chairman and general counsel.

Acting Executive Director Earl T. Shinhoster said later that the issue was expected to be settled by Nov. 4. He said Dr. Gibson would remain on the board but might have to reimburse the NAACP for any money owed.

Jeff L. Greenup, the former chairman's lawyer, said before the meeting: "Dr. Gibson will not pay a dime for one simple reason: He does not owe a dime."

The audit said Dr. Gibson, who served in an unpaid position, charged more than $300,000 to an NAACP credit card from 1989 to 1994 while receiving nearly $165,000 in monthly stipends to cover other expenses.

The report found that no NAACP employee had the authority to question expenses by the chairman and executive director.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights group.

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