Questions over Philly NAACP finances

APRIL SAUL / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Philly NAACP president J. Whyatt Mondesire called the three complainants a "gang of backstabbers" in a December letter.
APRIL SAUL / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Philly NAACP president J. Whyatt Mondesire called the three complainants a "gang of backstabbers" in a December letter.
Posted: January 24, 2014

A YEAR BEFORE the NAACP's national convention comes to Philadelphia, a lawyer for three officers of the local chapter is questioning whether longtime president J. Whyatt Mondesire has mismanaged the chapter's finances.

"We're demanding answers," said Gerard Egan, who is representing former political aide Ducky Birts, restaurant owner Sydney Booker and the Rev. Elisha Morris.

Egan, a former federal prosecutor, said he is also asking the state attorney general to investigate the matter, which was first reported by AxisPhilly.org.

In a Nov. 27 letter, Birts, Booker and Morris called on the national NAACP to take control of the Philadelphia chapter and conduct a financial audit going back 10 years.

Many of their questions deal with an arrangement in which national NAACP money allegedly passed through the Next Generation Community Development Corp. before reaching the local chapter. The IRS has revoked tax-exempt status for Next Generation, which at one point listed Mondesire as its president.

Egan said it's unclear in some instances whether all of the money made it to the local chapter. If it didn't, he said, it could prompt an investigation into mail fraud, wire fraud or theft.

His clients have posed these questions to Mondesire and have heard nothing back, Egan said.

Reached by phone yesterday, Mondesire hung up when asked about the allegations. However, he wrote a letter to NAACP members in Philadelphia about the issue, calling the three complainants a "gang of backstabbers."

"Questions about financial irregularities and management problems were thoroughly addressed at least twice in two separate board meetings," Mondesire wrote on Dec. 26. "Nothing has been taken from the NAACP, and no NAACP money is missing."

Mondesire wrote that two of the three critics, whom he did not name, had previously been stripped of leadership positions. Egan said that he did not know what that claim meant and that his clients are still chapter officers.

Several sources close to the NAACP and sympathetic to Mondesire say that Birts, who declined to comment except through his lawyer, started the dispute as a result of personal differences with Mondesire.

The questions raised, however, now go far beyond personal differences.

A month ago, Gill Ford, the NAACP's national director of unit compliance, said he was aware of the matter.

"We're looking into that situation, but I wouldn't call it an investigation," he said.

Ford couldn't be reached yesterday, as the group's offices were closed because of the weather.

A spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office said he could not comment on whether there is an investigation on the matter.


On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout

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