Balto. County NAACP president, officers accused of letting memberships expire Challenger also says dues aren't sent by deadline

November 13, 1998|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Dennis O'Brien contributed to this article.

A longtime member of the Baltimore County NAACP and several of her supporters have accused the chapter's president and its officers of letting their memberships to the national organization expire and sloppy handling of membership dues paid to the local branch.

Dr. Bernetha George, a Randallstown physician who lost her bid to unseat Baltimore County NAACP President Patricia Ferguson in an election last night, said records provided by the national office show that seven of the eight officers of the local branch have expired memberships.

Those officers, who include Ferguson, the vice president, the secretary and the treasurer, should have been disqualified from running for re-election, George said.

The other officers ran unopposed.

George said she lost the election for chapter president by a vote of 121-46, but said the key issue is not the election results but the problems with Ferguson's administration.

"The fact that she had the largest number of votes does not mean this issue is resolved. The issue goes far beyond this election," George said.

George said she made the discovery after she decided to run in August and compared records from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which showed the officers' memberships had expired between September 1997 and December 1997, with records from the local chapter that showed their memberships were valid.

George said she will file a formal complaint with the state conference of the NAACP to challenge the election results. If the state conference rules against her, she said she will appeal to the National Board of the NAACP.

George charged that in the past two years, officers of the Baltimore County branch have been sending membership dues to the national office six to nine months late. That would be a violation of the NAACP Constitution, which says funds must be transferred to the national office within 15 days.

George said she is requesting that the national NAACP take over the Baltimore County branch. "They need to go in there, get these records and get things cleaned up," she said.

Ferguson refused to discuss the specific charges, other than to assert that her NAACP membership has not expired.

"All I'm going to say is I have my valid membership and my valid canceled check," she said.

George had sought a delay in yesterday's balloting, but the national office, which took over supervision of the election after concerns were raised about the nominating process, decided to let it proceed.

Dennis C. Hayes, general counsel of the Baltimore-based NAACP, said no formal complaint detailing the allegations had been filed.

"Nobody has complained to us officially about the branch not reporting [its membership dues] in a timely fashion," he said.

A formal complaint is normally required before the national office will intervene in a local branch's affairs.

"Some people may be impatient with letting the process work itself out and that's what's happening here," Hayes said. "This is an 11th-hour election challenge."

Hayes said it appeared that allegations concerning the expired memberships of the branch's officers are incorrect. "My understanding is they may have been looking at partial records. They may not have been looking at updated records," he said.

Hayes said there is enough concern about the timely forwarding of membership dues that it is likely the national office will investigate the Baltimore County branch.

"I believe the national office will be looking at the Baltimore County situation," he said.

Pub Date: 11/13/98

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