NAACP can move on Chavis-Stansel case: Jury frees organization of liability in payoff for silence.

June 08, 1996

A JURY DECISION this week that the NAACP should not have to pay for Ben Chavis' decision to settle a sexual harassment complaint out of court brings welcome relief to the nation's oldest civil rights organization and to all who support its valuable mission.

The former head of the NAACP, who left in disgrace, had no business using NAACP money to quiet a former aide who accused him of forcing her to have sex.

Mr. Chavis' claim that he was only trying to protect the NAACP rings hollow. A more honest assessment is that he was trying to protect himself. It is unfortunate that it took this sorry episode, which further damaged the credibility of the NAACP when it could ill afford it, to rid the organization of Mr. Chavis.

Since being fired by the NAACP in 1994, Mr. Chavis has continued a worrisome alliance with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan that during his tenure hurt the NAACP's ability to raise money. His irresponsible decision to pay Mary E. Stansel up to $332,400 without getting board approval proved Mr. Chavis simply was not the right person to lead the NAACP.

A Washington jury decided Thursday that Ms. Stansel must return to the NAACP $64,000 in hush money paid to her by Mr. Chavis, but not another $18,000 that came from private contributions. Ms. Stansel is expected to press her case that Mr. Chavis still owes her money. The jury only determined the NAACP's lack of liability. It did not decide the merit of Ms. Stansel's allegation that she consented to have sex with Mr. Chavis out of fear of losing her job.

The NAACP, which has been struggling financially, cannot afford to write off the $64,000 that Ms. Stansel has been ordered to repay, or another $5,400 that the organization did give Mr. Chavis to pay off his former executive assistant. But more important than the money is the organization's reputation, which has been vindicated by the court decision.

During his inauguration in February, new NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said he wanted to build coalitions across racial and religious lines, reject extremes of both the right and left and accent the need for individual responsibility. With the Stansel distraction behind it, the NAACP can now follow the capable leadership of Mr. Mfume and board chairman Myrlie Evers-Williams and continue the necessary work of fighting racism in America.

Pub Date: 6/08/96

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