NAACP rejected an offer to straighten its finances


The debt-burdened NAACP rebuffed a prestigious Washington law firm's free advice of how to straighten out its finances because it didn't want "an outside entity to govern its business," a high NAACP official said yesterday.

After the troubled civil rights group rejected its advice, the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering withdrew last month as the NAACP's advisory counsel, syndicated columnist Carl T. Rowan reports today in The Sun.

Fred H. Rasheed, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's interim administrator, said the organization's 17-member executive committee voted down the firm's proposal that a seven-member "independent advisory committee" restructure the NAACP.

The panel would have been headed by outsiders, including only two NAACP board members, and relegate embattled NAACP Chairman William F. Gibson to an ex-officio role.

"I don't think Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering would let the NAACP determine the governance of its operation, and surely the NAACP wouldn't let Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering or anyone dictate the governance of our organization," Mr. Rasheed said.

Dr. Gibson could not be reached for comment. In a series of columns, Mr. Rowan has urged the chairman to resign and accused him of reckless spending.

James E. Coleman Jr., who headed the Wilmer, Cutler effort, did not return phone calls.

Mr. Rasheed confirmed that as a result of what the law firm called the NAACP's "desperate and dangerous financial situation," the NAACP owes its own pension fund about $1 million. He said about a fifth of the shortfall will be made up next month.

The interim administrator said the NAACP still owes creditors, including the pension fund, more than $3 million. He said about $900,000 alone is owed on bills from the NAACP's 1994 convention in Chicago, including $700,000 in hotel charges.

Mr. Rowan reported that there is a $1.1 million lien on the NAACP headquarters building in Northwest Baltimore's Seton Business Park.

Maryland officials said the lien secures a $1.1 million, city-state financing package that enticed the NAACP to relocate here in 1986. That deal committed the NAACP to remain here for 15 years or face repaying the grants. The lien has been on the property since 1985.

Mr. Rasheed said the NAACP has pared its annual payroll to $2.5 million and increased its cash receipts to more than $40,000 a day. He said the NAACP now has 98 employees (including 27 paid from specially designated grants) -- down from about 140 in 1993.

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