Former NAACP director denies misleading board about settlement Chavis also testifies he didn't have sex with aide

June 04, 1996|By James Bock | James Bock,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Former NAACP Executive Director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. denied yesterday that he misled board members about settling a former aide's sexual-harassment claim for up to $332,400 in NAACP funds.

Chavis said he told board members and the NAACP's top lawyer at the group's July 1994 convention that there were no pending lawsuits involving former aide Mary E. Stansel. He said he did not learn until later that Stansel had sued him and the NAACP for stopping payments on the November 1993 deal he made with her.

But Dennis Courtland Hayes, the NAACP's general counsel, and Judge Fred Banks, a board member and Mississippi Supreme Court justice, gave radically different testimony last week. They said Chavis did not disclose anything about the Stansel deal even when asked several broad questions about any litigation involving sexual harassment and the NAACP. The Stansel deal was negotiated by an outside law firm without Hayes' or the board's knowledge.

Chavis' testimony could be a key test of his credibility when a District of Columbia Superior Court jury decides whether the Baltimore-based NAACP shares liability with him for $245,200 owed to Stansel. She was paid $87,200.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People contends that Chavis made an unauthorized "secret deal" with Stansel to protect his own reputation and financial interest. Chavis says he had the authority and sought to protect the NAACP from negative publicity and possibly greater losses at trial.

Chavis also issued yesterday his strongest denials that he had sex with Stansel.

"It's a matter of your word against hers, isn't it, Dr. Chavis?" asked Sharon Cummings, Stansel's lawyer.

"No, it's a matter of truth, Ms. Cummings," said Chavis, an ordained minister. "There's never been an intimate relationship between me and Ms. Stansel. God knows that truth, and what I testified today is the truth."

Chavis accused Stansel of turning a dispute over her firing into a sexual-harassment case in an attempt to get money from him and the NAACP.

"I had no sexual interest in Ms. Stansel and, to my knowledge, she had no sexual interest in me," he said.

He said Stansel's testimony that he intimidated her into having sex at a Washington hotel in April 1993 was "blatantly false," as was her assertion that they had an affair in 1990-1991.

Chavis said he had been "happily married" since 1988. His wife, Martha, has sat in the front row of the spectators area each day of the two-week trial, which is expected to end this week.

Pub Date: 6/04/96

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