NAACP reports financial solvency Mfume had inherited $3.2 million debt

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume announced yesterday that the civil rights organization has wiped out its debt and expects to hire more than 20 new employees by the end of 1997.

"Effective today, we have paid off all of the existing $3.2 million debt that I inherited in February of this year," Mfume told reporters. "The NAACP, for the first time in a long time, is operating in the black."

Mfume, who spoke after the NAACP board of directors met at a downtown hotel, said the board had tentatively approved a "realistic, pay-as-you-go budget" for 1997. It projects $12.6 million in revenues and $11.7 million in expenses. Before financial mismanagement plunged the NAACP into crisis in 1994, the group's revenues reached about $18 million a year.

"Now that we have gotten where we are, this is not the time to take a willy-nilly approach to spending," Mfume said.

He said he hoped that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's clean financial bill of health would encourage gifts from corporations, foundations and large donors, such as athletes and entertainers.

Under Executive Director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., who was fired in 1994, and Chairman William F. Gibson, who was defeated in February 1995, the debt reached $4.8 million, NAACP officials say. Audits showed that both men spent beyond the organization's means and charged personal expenses to NAACP credit cards.

Mfume, who left his Maryland 7th District congressional seat in February to head the 87-year-old civil rights group, said the NAACP had eliminated the debt by laying off staff, negotiating with creditors and turning profits of $700,000 on its July convention and $400,000 on the televised NAACP Image Awards. The Image Awards had been the largest single contributor to the debt, with losses of $1.4 million over four years.

Francisco L. Borges, the NAACP's treasurer, said checks had not yet been written to some creditors but that $416,000 in cash reserves had been set aside to satisfy those obligations. He said the NAACP's national staff, which once numbered more than 125, has about 40 employees.

Borges said Mfume received a standing ovation at the board meeting.

Ben Andrews, a former board vice chairman, said: "He still is on an extended honeymoon. He's doing everything right."

Julian Bond, a member of the NAACP reform movement headed by Chairwoman Myrlie Evers-Williams, said there was "almost no fractiousness, almost no infighting -- a completely different mood."

Some NAACP activists have complained that Mfume was not visible enough in their regions.

But Leon Russell, president of the Florida NAACP, said the "grumblings are normal grumblings. Anybody sitting in his chair would get that. You've got one person and a large country."

Mfume said he had visited 32 places in the past 48 days, speaking at local Freedom Fund banquets, meeting branch presidents and state leaders.

He said his goals are to usher a new generation of young leaders into the NAACP and to erase the question of whether the NAACP is still relevant.

Mfume also said that the NAACP, which has headquarters in Baltimore, had:

Hired Adrienne Watson, 26, a former Baltimore County schools employee, to run its Back to School/Stay in School program, which had been dormant. Mfume said he wanted 75 percent of the NAACP's 1,700 branches to have efforts combating absenteeism, truancy and high dropout rates by the end of next year.

Planned to kick off a five-year campaign in January to raise a $50 million endowment to give the organization more financial independence.

Issued a legislative report card grading the 104th Congress' voting records on a scale of 0 to 100.

The scores for the Maryland delegation were: Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D), 90; Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D), 70; Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R-1st), 27; Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R-2nd), 18; Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-3rd), 73; Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-4th), 91; Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-5th), 64; Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-6th), 18; Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-8th), 36. Both Mfume and his successor in the 7th District, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D), scored 100.

Pub Date: 10/20/96

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