Pictured are NAACP National Director of Unit Field Operations and Membership The Rev. Gill Ford (in orange tie), Cleveland NAACP President The Rev Hilton Smith (in red tie), Cleveland NAACP Executive Director Sheila Wright, former Cleveland NAACP executive director Stanley Miller (in purple tie) and former Cleveland NAACP President George Forbes (in blue tie and eyeglasses)
By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-in-chief, Cleveland Urban News. Com and The Cleveland Urban News.Com Blog, Ohio's Most Read Online Black Newspaper and Newspaper Blog. Tel: 216-659-0473. (Kathy Wray Coleman is a 20-year investigative and political journalist and legal reporter who trained for 17 years under five different editors at the Call and Post Newspaper, Ohio's most prominent Black press)
(www.clevelandurbannews.com) / (www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com)
CLEVELAND, Ohio-At the request of Cleveland NAACP President the Rev. Hilton Smith, and with support from key other branch officers, including first vice president the Rev Dr. E. Theophilus Caviness, second vice president Bishop F.E. Perry and third vice president Sara J. Harper, the National NAACP has suspended the election process for Cleveland branch officers and executive committee members due in part to documented violations of organizational bylaws by the four-member nominating committee.
Meanwhile, the local chapter of the nation's oldest and most renowned Civil Rights organization is flat broke and has not paid Executive Director Sheila Wright since June, a potential breach of her contract, which expires in January. One reason for the financial problems, sources said, is that the annual Freedom Fund Dinner that generates revenue was not held this year.
Longtime unit secretary Anderson broke the news about the election to the general membership on Monday at what was to be a meeting for the nominating committee to introduce its slate of candidates for offices and the executive committee, and for the group to take nominations from the floor.
"They are temporarily suspending the process," said Anderson, who also told those there that the Rev. Gill Ford, the NAACP's national director of unit field operations and membership, had ordered the branch to cease all election-related activities until national NAACP officials can complete a thorough and comprehensive investigation.
In the wings was architect Kent Whitley, who told Cleveland Urban News.Com that he was looking forward to the process of taking nominations from the floor as an ambitious candidate seeking to unseat Smith, a likable associate minister at the prestigious greater Abyssinia Baptist Church in Cleveland where Caviness is senior pastor, and a six figure vice president of communications at Turner Construction Company.
At issue is the breach of bylaws relative to the four-member nominating committee, though a host of other problems are also key to the national takeover, sources said yesterday.
The policy- laced national NAACP manual for branch elections requires that the nominating committee consist of five to 15 members and according to a report from the nominating committee distributed to the general membership at the meeting Monday evening at the University Circle United Methodist Church on Cleveland's east side, the nominating committee members knew that former nominating committee chairperson Harper, a retired Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals judge, had resigned, reducing the five-member committee to only four members.
Harper only attended the first of four nominating committee meetings before she quit the committee in September.
Two other members of the nominating committee, which originally had seven members that were elected at the September meeting of the general membership, were forced off the committee due to their dues not being paid by April 1, also a requirement of the by laws. That brought the number down to five, and Harper leaving rendered the committee with only four members.
Still, the nominating committee proceeded with its prejudicial nominating process and its illegal four-member nominating committee. They said on Monday that Harper had not put her resignation as chair of the nominating committee in writing, though the bylaws do not require it, and though her absence since the first committee meeting gave them clear warning that she had quit, sources said.
Another complaint made to the national headquarters is that several members in good standing had not been notified by mail of the September meeting upon which the general membership elected the nominating committee, also a requirement of the organization bylaws.
The nominating committee now in discrepancy consisted of former Cleveland NAACP Executive Director Stanley Miller, who was ousted as executive director under long time chapter president George L. Forbes, a former Cleveland City Council president and current general counsel for the Call and Post Newspaper whom Smith succeeded, Karen Scott, Will Tarver, and Jocelyn Travis, who lost a bid for president against Smith in 2012.
Cleveland NAACP Attorney Michael Nelson, who, along with branch attorney James Hardiman, has refused request from members to address the unconstitutional denial of indigent counsel to Blacks in Cleveland suburbs such as Cleveland Heights, Berea and Bedford municipals courts, defended the illegal nominating committee process. This is perhaps because he and Hardiman were among those nominated, Hardiman as first vice president, and Nelson himself as third vice president. Others officers nominated were Smith as president, Anderson to remain as secretary, and current treasurer Amos Mahsua. Travis was nominated by the nominating committee she was a member of as assistan secretary, though she recused herself from voting on herself and was recommended by the other three committee members.
The 19-member executive committee recommendations for candidacy include people that have not been active, some for two years or more, including a sitting Cleveland Municipal Court judge, a retired judge, and Cleveland council person, at least one of them of whom told Cleveland Urban News.Com that she did not intend to come to meetings due to a scheduling conflict but was solicited anyway by branch Assistant Secretary Marcia McCoy, a student recruitment liaison for the Cleveland Municipal School District.
Nelson, also a Cleveland criminal defense lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for Cleveland mayor in 2005, was accused at the controversial meeting of disrespecting retired Judge Harper, 88, whom he told to sit down and that she was the problem, comments that prompted community activists members of the Cleveland NAACP that were there to tell him on two occasions to "back down and leave her [Harper] alone."
Harper, a sister of Call and Post Newspaper Associate Publisher and executive editor Connie Harper, held her own and threatened to take Nelson "to the bar." She told Cleveland Urban News.Com that she is not seeking reelection to third vice president.
After the meeting Nelson said that he is no longer interested in being third vice president.
"I'm out, I'm tired of this, I'm not running," said Nelson.