City's debt-ridden Urban League fires Lyons, its president, CEO

June 03, 2000|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

Roger I. Lyons, who led the Baltimore Urban League for 12 years until mounting debts forced board members to demand his resignation, has been fired.

"Our resolution was that if we had not heard from him by May 31 that his services would be automatically terminated," said Lenneal J. Henderson Jr., board chairman.

Henderson said he had not heard anything from Lyons or from his attorney.

When reached yesterday, Barnett Brooks, Lyons' attorney, said he had no comment.

Lyons, who made $115,000 a year as league president and chief executive officer, went on medical leave last month after suffering a mild heart attack.

Last week, as revelations about the league's finances became public, board members met and demanded that Lyons be ousted. Documents showed the league was $800,000 in debt in March and owed thousands of dollars in mortgage payments, utility bills, rent and payroll taxes.

Henderson said he and other board members were trying to raise between $600,000 and $700,000 to clear the league's debts.

The Urban League has been a fixture in Baltimore since 1924 and has been involved in social programs to benefit the poor.

One of Lyons' biggest successes was the purchase and renovation of the historic Orchard Street Church. That deal also became the league's biggest financial drain.

Last week Henderson said the league is trying to restructure its mortgage to save the church, believed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad used by slaves when escaping to freedom.

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