Ungraceful Exits

Rocked by ethical and criminal misdeeds, the NAACP ousts four board members

The NAACP may still be the preeminent civil rights group waging war for racial justice. But at a time when affirmative action efforts are being pummeled the organization has been sidelined by some embarrassing internal battles.

In recent months, the Executive Committee of the NAACP’s Board of Directors forced four of its board members to resign after criminal misdeeds sparked jitters within the $10 million nonprofit organization.

Last November, the NAACP’s General Counsel was asked to investigate the “personal and legal” conflicts of board members Henry Lyons, James E. Ghee, Bobby Bivens and Hazel Dukes. The charges ran the gamut from mismanagement of funds to embezzlement. The most noteworthy was the decision to remove board member Hazel Dukes, former president of the New York City Off-track Betting Corp., who admitted stealing more than $13,000 from an employee who entrusted her with funds to pay bills in her absence.

“After discussing the case, two-thirds of the 47 board members present voted to remove Hazel Dukes from the board,” says Myrlie Evers-Williams, the organization’s chair.

“This process was in accordance with the NAACP’s procedures as written in our constitution.”

The NAACP’s image had taken such a beating that President and CEO Kweisi Mfume drafted a letter to Evers-Williams, stating, “We have had four phone inquiries from representatives of corporations and foundations wanting to know what’s going on.” Mfume added that the corporations were concerned, but none had threatened to stop financial support.

Veteran civil rights activist Julian Bond, one of the board members, says the NAACP’s internal battles should not detract from its work on the civil rights front. ” [These incidences] have not stopped us from doing the work of civil rights,” he says.

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