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Ex-NAACP aide tells of being 'humiliated' Mary Stansel claims Chavis' inner circle harassed her at meeting

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- Mary E. Stansel, the woman whose lawsuit triggered former NAACP Executive Director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.'s firing nearly two years ago, testified yesterday that Chavis' male inner circle "humiliated" her because she was a woman.

Stansel said that at a May 1993 meeting called six weeks after she went to work as Chavis' executive assistant, Chavis' top advisers called her a "bitch" and falsely accused her of having an affair with Chavis.

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She said she was put on paid leave and later fired.

"I felt I was let go simply because I was a woman," she said. "If I was a man, I think I would still be employed by the NAACP today."

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It was the first time Stansel has spoken publicly about the events that led her to negotiate a November 1993 settlement that called for the NAACP to pay her up to $332,400. When those payments stopped, she sued Chavis and the NAACP for $245,200. Three weeks after that suit became public, the NAACP board fired Chavis, in August 1994.

A District of Columbia Superior Court jury must decide whether the NAACP shares liability with Chavis for paying Stansel. The NAACP contends Chavis made a "secret deal" and was not authorized to negotiate on its behalf. Chavis and Stansel say he did have authority.

On the witness stand, Stansel, 51, who has a University of Georgia law degree, was lawyerly. She donned bifocals to read documents, spoke gently but firmly, and looked at the jury as she testified.

She contradicted Chavis' earlier testimony on several points: She said that from 1989 to 1991, she and Chavis had an "intimate relationship. It's not something I'm proud of, but it did happen." He said they never had a sexual relationship.

She said the NAACP paid her $9,000 for one month of work and later gave her an $85,000 salary package. He said he told Stansel she couldn't make more than $45,000.

She said she was a highly effective member of Chavis' management team. He said she was a disruptive force in the office, condescending to staff and rude to board members.

Stansel said she was "just devastated" by the May 1993 meeting. "I lost part of my self-esteem, I lost part of my self-confidence. I had never, ever been treated like that before in a work situation," she said.

"I was told the NAACP could not continue to pay me a salary of $9,000 a month because people would think I was having an affair with Dr. Chavis and they were going to go to the press with that statement," she testified.

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Stansel threatened a claim against Chavis and the NAACP on sexual harassment and other grounds, she said, because "the NAACP had discriminated against me, and I wanted it to compensate me for the wrong it had done."

The trial resumes Tuesday with Stansel on the stand.

Pub Date: 5/25/96


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