The NAACP and the crisis next time

February 04, 1996|By Carl T. Rowan

WASHINGTON -- The clutches of the law are closing tighter around William Gibson, the ousted chairman who almost destroyed the NAACP. That means that the new leaders of this civil-rights organization, Chairman Myrlie Evers-Williams and President Kweisi Mfume, will face a grave crisis at the February 17 board meeting.

They must convince the warring board to move legally to force Dr. Gibson to return the hundreds of thousands of NAACP dollars that he took improperly, or the nation's most renowned civil-rights organization will itself face strong punishment from the Internal Revenue Service.

BTC Mrs. Evers-Williams has made it clear that either the board goes after Dr. Gibson at this meeting or she will resign.

This critical meeting will occur in the wake of the Internal Revenue Service filing a tax lien on ''all property and rights to property'' of the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP.

I recently disclosed that documents and bank records show that Dr. Gibson was ''triple-dipping'' for a decade, personally taking many thousands of dollars from the South Carolina branch where he held the presidency simultaneously with the national chairmanship, even as he used improperly hundreds of thousands of dollars in unauthorized ''stipends'' and credit-card charges from the national NAACP.

But while fattening his coffers, Dr. Gibson apparently failed to see that proper taxes were paid in South Carolina; hence the IRS lien -- and the IRS threat to sanction the national NAACP.

Dr. Gibson will soon face a grand jury in South Carolina, according to Hemphill Pride, the Columbia, S.C., lawyer who has sued on behalf of an NAACP member who alleges misuse of NAACP funds by Dr. Gibson and has been unable to get an outside audit.

Incredibly, the crooks and cronies who long supported Dr. Gibson are still trying to undermine Mrs. Evers-Williams. The Gibson clique tried last week, futilely, to get an ''emergency'' board meeting before the scheduled one in two weeks. They hoped to force through a board appointment of the discredited Dr. Gibson as a director for another term.

Meanwhile, a leading Gibson loyalist, Kelly M. Alexander Sr. of Charlotte, N.C., launched a laughable ploy to declare that Mrs. Evers-Williams defeated Dr. Gibson in 1994 with a single ''illegal'' vote.

Older youth

Three weeks ago, Mr. Alexander faxed a memorandum to Mrs. Evers-Williams contending that a ''youth'' board member, Gina Pettis-Dean of Raleigh, N.C., was 26 (beyond the ''youth'' age limit of 25) when Myrlie Evers-Williams unseated Dr. Gibson in February 1994. Mr. Alexander's fax said to ''Myrlie'':

''The record shows that you won by one vote. However, if Gina's ineligible vote is factored out the election becomes a draw [and that] brings your election into question.''

Mrs. Pettis-Dean told me Wednesday that she voted for Dr. Gibson, and that if her vote were thrown out Mrs. Evers-Williams would have won by two votes. Furthermore, she said, ''I'm delighted that Mrs. Evers-Williams won and has really turned things around for the NAACP.''

These efforts to make Dr. Gibson a permanent board fixture, and to nullify Mrs. Evers-Williams' election, symbolize the desperate rule-or-ruin mood of Dr. Gibson's sycophants. The black masses must rise up and tell the crooks and crazies on the absurdly large NAACP board to get lost -- to give President Mfume and Chairman Evers-Williams a chance to restore this vital organization to the honesty, integrity and respect it deserves and must have.

The problem is that some on the board fear that Dr. Gibson may go to jail and they may have to accompany him. Their desire for survival outside incarceration tells them, tragically, that they cannot afford to care much about the survival of the NAACP.

The February 17 crisis is a costly one that really need not exist. But can anyone get the likes of Dr. Gibson and Mr. Alexander to put the needs of all black people ahead of their personal desperation?

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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