Roger I. Lyons survived a move yesterday to fire him as Baltimore Urban League president in a dispute over personal charges he made on a corporate credit card.
The league's board of directors voted to retain Mr. Lyons, who reimbursed the civil rights group for the personal expenses, but still might discipline him, Chairman Alice G. Pinderhughes told reporters as the grim-faced president sat next to her.
There was no allegation that Mr. Lyons mishandled Urban League funds, as reported in some television news accounts. Mr. Lyons, whose annual salary is about $65,000, oversees an organization that took in nearly $4 million last year.
Mrs. Pinderhughes said she had asked Mr. Lyons to "consider resigning" for using the organization's corporate card to charge his son's college tuition and expenses for his family's Bahamas vacation -- about $4,200 in all.
The 45-year-old Urban League president refused to quit, and yesterday he prevailed. Board sources said a considerable majority supported him. Mr. Lyons and Mrs. Pinderhughes vowed to stay on in their posts despite the apparent rift between them.
"I made some mistakes," said Mr. Lyons, who conceded that the public flap had hurt both his reputation and the Urban League's. "I can weather the storm. . . . The Baltimore Urban League is TC much bigger than Roger Lyons."
Mrs. Pinderhughes said the dispute, which has rocked the usually low-profile Urban League, had been blown out of proportion. "It's to me not that great a charge, and it's been paid," she said. Mrs. Pinderhughes said the group has no written policy on credit card use, but that the board would now establish one. Meanwhile, the league has confiscated Mr. Lyons' card.
Mr. Lyons, president of the league since 1988, has been an effective fund-raiser who has tripled the group's staff to nearly 70 employees. The league received $405,000 last year in United Way funds, according to its most recent tax return.
Mr. Lyons is best known for spearheading the $3.7 million renovation of the Orchard Street Church as league headquarters in 1992. The historic 19th century black church and Sunday school complex stands just west of Druid Hill Avenue.
The Baltimore Urban League runs job training, AIDS education, literacy and youth programs, some under contract to Baltimore's Office of Employment Development. The local civil rights group is one of 113 affiliates of the National Urban League.