The NAACP defended its board chairman yesterday against allegations that he misused organization funds, as some members called for an investigation of his expense accounts.
The allegations against Dr. William F. Gibson have plunged the Baltimore-based civil rights group back into turmoil just as it was emerging from a damaging controversy that ended in the ouster of then-Executive Director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. six weeks ago.
Syndicated columnist Carl T. Rowan has quoted unnamed sources as saying that Dr. Gibson "double-dipped" by being reimbursed for expenses he had already charged to an NAACP credit card. The columnist reported yesterday that Dr. Gibson charged more than $100,000 to his NAACP credit card in 1993 alone, then got more than $30,000 as "reimbursement for the same [or for non-existent] expenses."
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's executive committee said yesterday in a statement that it was "totally satisfied" that Dr. Gibson, who receives no salary, "has done nothing wrong."
Since becoming chairman in May 1985, Dr. Gibson has received $12,000 a year for office expenses and $10,000 a year for ground transportation, the statement said. The chairman was also reimbursed for expenses ranging from attending board meetings to traveling with Dr. Chavis "for public relations purposes," the four-page statement said.
The committee criticized Mr. Rowan for publishing "unsubstantiated allegations from unnamed sources," and assailed NAACP insiders for leaking documents.
"We decry those who profess to want to save the organization by attempting to destroy it," it concluded.
Meanwhile, local NAACP leaders expressed concern about the charges.
W. Gregory Wims, president of the 3,000-member Montgomery County branch, said Dr. Gibson should step aside temporarily while an internal investigation is made. Mr. Wims is also president of the Maryland State NAACP, but he did not speak for that group.
"We in Montgomery County have recruited over 200 brand-new members in the past 30 days and turned in $16,000 to the national office in an effort to rebuild the organization. We've made commitments to our membership that the NAACP would be credible in fighting for civil rights," Mr. Wims said.
He said Dr. Gibson, a South Carolina dentist and 35-year NAACP veteran, needs to "clear his name and the name of the NAACP. If the charges turn out to be true, he should step aside permanently."
Rodney Orange, president of the 3,300-member Baltimore branch, also called for an investigation, but he didn't suggest that Dr. Gibson step aside.
"At the least it appears there has been some extravagance on the part of the chairman of the board," Mr. Orange said. The Rowan column said Dr. Gibson had charged nearly $500,000 in travel expenses since 1986.
Mr. Orange said he expected the board to oust Dr. Gibson when his term as chairman ends in February. He said members blamed Dr. Gibson in part for the NAACP's $3.5 million deficit and for the Chavis debacle.
Dr. Chavis was fired Aug. 20 for making a secret deal to pay a former aide up to $332,400 after she threatened to sue him and the NAACP for sexual harassment. Dr. Gibson says he knew of the threatened lawsuit, but that he didn't approve Dr. Chavis' settlement.
Ronald Walters, a Howard University political scientist, said the allegations showed a need to rein in Dr. Gibson and "say we need a board chairman, not another executive director."