Members of the national NAACP will hear arguments next week to help decide whether James Pennington, the controversial president of the Baltimore County branch, should be ousted.
The challenge to Mr. Pennington's leadership was initiated by Herbert H. Lindsey, a member of the county branch's executive board, who submitted a 35-page report to the national office in March documenting Mr. Pennington's alleged transgressions.
In the report, Mr. Lindsey claims that Mr. Pennington's "dictatorial" leadership is weakening the county chapter, making it a "paper tiger." Membership in the county NAACP is low, the report charges, and "many people who would probably be receptive to joining the NAACP do not want to join the Baltimore County branch," it says.
Mr. Pennington "couldn't call a meeting in this community and get 10 people to attend," Mr. Lindsey says.
Mr. Pennington declined to comment on the complaints,except to say the report had "no substance to it." But the president says he intends to respond to the charges after the national office makes its decision.
During his 14-year tenure, Mr. Pennington, the often-controversial, strong-willed leader of the county branch, has frequently come under fire from members of the community as well as members of the local NAACP.
Mr. Pennington's critics have charged that he was doing more harm than good for the organization, and was more interested in publicity than progress.
Mr. Lindsey says he values Mr. Pennington's friendship, "but I value the advancement of the African-American community in Baltimore County even more. . . . These problems have been swept under the rug too often."
Mr. Lindsey's report accuses Mr. Pennington of violating the NAACP's constitution and many of its bylaws.
The county National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has not held general membership meetings since 1989, the report says; neither has it held the annual meetings required by the charter.
The report also charges that executive meetings are frequently held without a proper quorum. It says Mr. Pennington often appoints and dismisses executive committee members on his own, though the local charter says filling vacancies in the office and on the executive committee is the sole responsibility of the committee.
Mr. Lindsey also charges that Mr. Pennington keeps executive committee members "in the dark about vital information coming into the branch." In addition, written minutes of executive meetings are not distributed, making it difficult for those who may have been absent to learn what occurred, the report says.
The report also says that members of the Baltimore County branch of the NAACP pay $27 a year in membership fees, while similar membership fees in other branches around the nation are about $10.
Since he asked the national NAACP to take action, Mr. Lindsey says two executive committee meetings have been held, but he was not informed of either. He says he walked in on the second meeting, but was barred by Mr. Pennington.
Last month, Mr. Lindsey made public his complaints, and received a letter from Mr. Pennington. In it the president says he will hold another meeting of the Baltimore County NAACP when the national office responds to Mr. Lindsey's report.
The national NAACP will hold a hearing on the charges at its Baltimore office May 22. After the hearing, it will make a recommendation to the committee that deals with issues affecting the NAACP branches. That committee is expected to render a final decision in early June on Mr. Pennington's fitness to lead the Baltimore County chapter.