NAACP becomes battleground for bitter 'family feud'

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Rev. Elisha Morris (from right), Donald Birts and Sid Booker discuss the local chapter of the NAACP's financial trouble at a news conference in February, where they publicly confronted Mondesire.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Rev. Elisha Morris (from right), Donald Birts and Sid Booker discuss the local chapter of the NAACP's financial trouble at a news conference in February, where they publicly confronted Mondesire.
Posted: April 09, 2014

A CONTROVERSY sparked by three NAACP board members leading a revolt against the local president began with questions about money. It shattered long friendships. Now it has turned both personal and warthog ugly.

Under attack is Stetson-wearing, longtime local NAACP president Jerry Mondesire, accused of playing a shell game with two checks totaling $10,500 intended for the NAACP - one for $10,000, another for $500.

There is little question the NAACP's finances are precarious. Philadelphia Gas Works last month slapped a lien on the civil-rights organization for $821.83.

The three former NAACP leaders are 2nd vice president Sid Booker, 3rd VP Donald "Ducky" Birts, and the Rev. Elisha Morris, assistant secretary and youth director.

On his advice, attorney Gerard Egan told me, the three took leaves of absence.

Much of this was first reported by the website AxisPhilly.org

Mondesire had declined to discuss this with the mainstream press, until now. He says NAACP policy doesn't permit leaves of absence and he's asked the national office to expel the three leaders. That decision is expected next month, he says.

The former leaders have asked the national office to take over the chapter and audit the books. They alleged Mondesire rules by intimidation and threats.

Heading the "ongoing inquiry" into the finances of the Philadelphia NAACP is the Rev. Gill Ford, NAACP national director of unit compliance. He has met with several people, but "the complaining parties have rejected both our meeting requests as well as our requests for documentation," he told me.

The three men are decades-long friends and supporters of Mondesire, says ex-board member Anthony Jackson, who calls the mess a "family feud."

Blood feud is more accurate.

According to Mondesire (who has called his critics "a gang of backstabbers"), he dismissed Birts from working on the NAACP Freedom Fund Gala because he used NAACP contacts to solicit for his own Ducky Birts Foundation banquet.

"That's such a bunch of bulls---," says Birts, who says he gave his contacts to the NAACP. "Jerry's trying to take me down because he's going down."

Mondesire says, "Lots of people use the NAACP as a personal hustle." His critics say the same about him.

According to Mondesire, Booker turned against him because he "has been lusting after my girlfriend for the last five years. As we say in the 'hood, this is a pure [N-word] mess."

Glad I didn't say that.

"There's no truth to that whatsoever," Booker told me. "I haven't spoken to her in the last five or six years." He said Mondesire "started out doing a helluva job" some years ago, "but somewhere he went off the track."

According to Mondesire, he dismissed Morris as youth counselor because of poor performance.

"He's lying," Morris told me. "The Youth Council is separate and apart from the NAACP. I'm elected by the youth."

It's bad when a man of the cloth calls you a liar.

"NAACP money is supposed to be deposited in the NAACP account," Morris said.

That brings us back to the checks totaling $10,500 that the critics say has gone astray.

Well, not astray exactly.

The checks were deposited in the account of the Next Generation Community Development Corp., founded by Mondesire and others as a welfare-to-work organization in 1999. It lost its tax-exempt status in 2010. "That was my fault," says Mondesire, who says he has an accountant working on it now.

The checks - for $10,000 (from Market East Associates, which has NAACP support for a casino license) and $500 (from Booker) - were deposited in the Next Generation account instead of the NAACP account. The $10,000 was intended for the national NAACP's scholarship fund. Mondesire told me on Saturday that he'd mailed an accounting of the money to Market East the day before.

Next Generation owns the property in which the local NAACP is quartered - the national NAACP stipulates that no chapter can own property. Next Generation charges the NAACP $1 a month in rent, "which we haven't paid in years," Mondesire chuckled.

What puzzled me is why money intended for the NAACP should be deposited in any other account, such as Next Generation's.

Mondesire said that since the NAACP can't own property, bills such as "real-estate tax, repairs, gas, lighting, etc." are paid through Next Generation.

But if you don't own property, there are no real-estate taxes. Tenants usually pay for utilities.

"That doesn't make sense," I told him.

"That's the way we've always done it," he said.

It didn't make sense to the critics, either, who admit they were too trusting for too long.

Once they started demanding answers, the family feud began.


Email: stubyko@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

Columns: ph.ly/StuBykofsky

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|