The Anne Arundel County chapter of the NAACP has appealed the national office's refusal to oust local president Wayne Jearld, despite members' accusations of his poor leadership and financial mismanagement.
Responding to a complaint from the county chapter, the national office last month ordered the parties to attend mediation, a move that prompted a Nov. 7 letter to the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, chief of national field operations for the NAACP. In it, members called the perceived lack of an adequate response to their request for Jearld's removal "very troubling" and urged the office to reconsider.
"Since Mr. Jearld took office the hostility, disrespect, and blatant disregard for policies and procedures that he has presented have been to the extreme," the letter reads, adding, "Mr. Jearld should have been suspended at the very least."
The letter ends: "His actions are detrimental to the organization and he will never be able to effectively serve as president of this branch."
Jearld, who declined multiple requests to comment for this story, has refused to step down.
Richard McIntire, a spokesman for the national office, did not return several calls seeking comment.
Several members of the Anne Arundel chapter's executive committee, including Ida Plummer, the group's secretary, either declined to comment or did not answer a reporter's calls.
Jearld was ushered in as president of the Anne Arundel County NAACP in January with support from some of the county's most respected civil rights leaders. He vowed to open an office for the 63-year-old branch and launch a Web site, and his work as a marketing and branding consultant was viewed as a crucial link to elevating the profile of the county's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
But members soon began raising concerns about what they called Jearld's confrontational style and inability to work with others, and the executive board filed a complaint in July seeking his removal. Rivers met with county leaders a month later in a closed-door session to quell tensions.
The most recent correspondence from the local leaders details additional infractions, including Jearld's absence from monthly meetings since August, when he stayed for 15 minutes, was "hostile and disruptive" and went on a "tirade" toward former state NAACP president Jenkins Odoms Jr..
And perhaps most damning, it alleges Jearld received unapproved funds from the chapter.
"To date there is an outstanding amount of $1,250.00 that Mr. Jearld has not repaid the branch," the letter said. "In July 2007, Mr. Jearld requested and received from the treasurer $1250.00. Mr. Jearld did not have approval to receive this money."
In the past, the local branch, which has approximately 350 members, has done substantive work: leading sit-ins in cafeterias and more recently, filing a federal complaint against Anne Arundel County's school board that prompted the county to agree to raise academic goals for minority, low-income and special education students. Earlier this year, it helped win a battle over a redistricting plan for Meade High School.
But with no real dialogue between Jearld and the branch's leadership, this year's Freedom Fund Banquet, a tradition for many local chapters, has been canceled.
"I think the more criticism we throw, it's only going to get more toxic," said the Rev. Walter E. Middlebrooks, pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis and president of Black Chamber of Commerce for Anne Arundel County. "We need to go forward and make the best out of it."
"My hope is we can all step back and let the temperature go down some," said Middlebrooks. "I think this county desperately needs an NAACP. To continue this kind of friction that exists among the executive board and the president, it's not good."