By Stephen Janis, Special to the AFRO
The ongoing controversy engulfing the Baltimore branch of the NAACP continued this week as a fresh dispute erupted over the timing of an upcoming special election.
A letter notifying members of local branch that an election would be held October 6 was received by many members over the weekend. But the notice was deemed by some insufficient for potential candidates to line-up support to run for a variety of positions including president, vice president, and treasurer.
“I have a lot of concerns,” current 1st Vice President Steve Turner told the AFRO.
Among them, Turner said, was bypassing the usual process for calling the election that includes consulting current officers of local branch prior to the announcement.
“They’re supped give us the date and we vote on it, and that never occurred.”
The special election was the result of the recent departure of interim president Ronald Flamer amid tensions between local officials and national leadership.
Flamer had replaced Tessa Hill-Alston last year when she left the organization after allegations emerged of financial mismanagement, which she denied, that lead to the national administrators taking over the branch.
Turner and other officers who spoke with the AFRO also said the tight deadline precluded potential candidates from signing up members to support potential candidates. They pointed to the requirement that new members have to be registered 30 days before the election to vote, a date which had already passed by the time the letter was received.
“We got the letter after the date had been closed to get voters,” Turner said.
But Maryland state NAACP president Gerald Stansbury said the process has been fair and above board.
“They knew an election was coming up,” Stansbury told the AFRO.
He said he had already publicly discussed the possibility of a special election. And that regardless of the October date all members were aware that the regularly scheduled election was slated for November.
“If anybody wants to participate in NAACP as an officer they have an opportunity,” he said. “If there hadn’t been a special election there would be one in November.”
The conflict comes amid concerns that one of the oldest, and until recently, influential NAACP chapters in the country had been weighed down by scandal and hampered by oversight from national administrators.
Current interim president Sandra Allman Cooper, who will not run, said her primary concern is restoring the local chapter’s independence.
“I feel that the branch has still has not been able to pull it together and cooperate,” she told the AFRO.
“There are a lot of problems, we need to have officers that are willing to work and be committed to the community and the NAACP.
“I feel it would be very good if we could get local control back to the branch.”
Many said the ongoing fallout from the departure last year of former President Tessa Hill-Alston has yet to subside.
Her departure triggered a takeover by the national leadership which just recently suspended the membership of her replacement, Ronald Flamer.
State leadership has declined to comment on the allegations against Hill-Alston. In an interview with the AFRO she denied any wrongdoing,
“Nobody can steal money from the NAACP. It’s all checks. It goes into the bank and then it goes to national, there is no money to steal,” Hill-Aston said.
“If I could get back all the money I spent for the branch I could go to the Bahamas,” she said.
For his part Flamer puts the blame for his dismissal on tensions between local and national leadership, including a conflict over the future of the local chapter’s Charles Village headquarters, which it owns.
“That has been point of contention,” Flamer said.
However, Stansbury contends the Baltimore headquarters and who owns it, has never been discussed.
Despite misgivings from current leadership, at least one candidate has already declared his intention to run.
Tuesday local activist Reverend Kobi Little announced his candidacy and promised to advocate for police reform and increased funding for education.
But Turner believes the ongoing series of miscues has embroiled the branch in controversies that have detracted from its historical mission.
“We’re not focusing,” he said.