A member of the NAACP’s board of directors filed suit Thursday seeking to force Chairman William Gibson to release an audit of his expenses before this weekend’s board elections.
The suit, filed by Hazel Dukes in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, asks for an injunction directing that the Saturday election be postponed until the board can learn results of an independent audit of Gibson’s expenses from 1989 until last year. A hearing was scheduled Friday before Justice Stuart Cohen.
Gibson has been accused by critics of double-dipping on his NAACP expense account, taking hundreds of thousands of dollars for his personal use.
Dukes’ suit was one of three filed against Gibson and other NAACP officials Thursday as leaders of the troubled civil rights organization gathered here to chart its future. Suits filed in Washington and South Carolina accuse Gibson of spending NAACP money on himself and allowing sexual harassment to thrive within the organization.
The lawsuits came as the NAACP inked a deal with television producer Don Cornelius to save its Image Awards show, which has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars and was dropped by NBC last year.
Dukes filed suit because she was concerned that Gibson would try to withhold a report by the Coopers & Lybrand accounting firm until after the election, said her attorney, John DeMaio.
Gibson’s critics say the Image Awards’ losses reflect poor decisionmaking that drove the organization more than $3 million into debt. And they cite the debt as one reason why Gibson should be removed from power.
Gibson is being challenged for his job by Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of late NAACP luminary Medgar Evers, in the election Saturday by the NAACP’s 64-member board of directors.
National President Rupert Richardson predicted Gibson would hang onto his seat. “Not by the margin I would have liked, but it’s not going to be a squeaker either,” she said.
Gibson put forth the Image Awards deal as proof that he can still raise money for the NAACP, in spite of all the allegations against him. Gibson’s supporters said they suspect dissidents who want to topple Gibson encouraged at least one of the lawsuits because they lack the votes necessary to oust the powerful chairman.
One suit was filed in Washington by a former NAACP staff attorney who says she was sexually harassed and wrongfully fired. The suit by attorney Stephanie Rones, 37, names Gibson and other top NAACP officials as defendants, charging that they knew of, but did not address, a pattern of discrimination against women employees. Rones is seeking damages of $800,000.
The third suit, filed in South Carolina, claims Gibson spent state conference money on his candidacy for re-election, and seeks a court order to force an audit of the state conference’s books.
The suit relies largely on allegations raised by syndicated newspaper columnist Carl Rowan. He said NAACP documents leaked to him show Gibson “double-dipped” from the group’s funds, charging nearly $500,000 to his NAACP credit card since 1986 and receiving $300,000 in reimbursements since becoming chairman 10 years ago.