Va. NAACP facing takeover by national?

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 2/22/2019, 6 a.m.
Is the national NAACP about to take control of the Virginia State Conference of the civil rights group based on ...
Rev. Kevin Chandler

Is the national NAACP about to take control of the Virginia State Conference of the civil rights group based on member complaints?

So far, the national office has declined to comment on any action concerning the Virginia NAACP that was authorized at the Feb. 16 national board meeting in New York.

The Rev. Kevin L. Chandler, state NAACP president, told the Free Press on Monday that “I have not heard anything” of the national taking a supervisory role or of any change in his status.

However, the Free Press has been told that Jonathan McKinney, the NAACP Mid-Atlantic field director, held a conference call Feb. 2 with the state executive committee and disclosed that he was planning to recommend that the Virginia unit be placed under supervision based on allegations of mismanagement.

What that would mean is uncertain.

In response to a Free Press query Tuesday, Mr. McKinney wrote, “On this internal matter, there is nothing to report. When an official word comes from our executive office regarding the changes in the organization, it will be made public.”

What is known is that a complaint has been filed with the national office alleging state conference violations of the constitution and bylaws, which continue a drumbeat of complaints that insiders said have been sent to the national office against Virginia in recent years.

A copy of a complaint the Free Press obtained states that “it is with a tremendous amount of sadness that members of the Virginia State Conference must petition the national NAACP to act against its own leadership.

“However, the situation in Virginia is desperate. … The undersigned request that national NAACP not hesitate in taking control of this situation and restoring some level of order.”

One of the issues involves Rev. Chandler’s sudden reversal in November of the state NAACP’s opposition to a natural gas compressor being placed in the largely African-American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County. The compressor plan is part of Dominion Energy’s development of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to bring fuel from West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina.

The complaint alleges Rev. Chandler wrote a letter to Gov. Ralph S. Northam expressing that objections to the pipeline had been dropped. The complaint alleges that the reversal in position came after Dominion Energy donated $25,000 to the Virginia NAACP and that Rev. Chandler changed course without consulting the state board or others in the state NAACP who were engaged with the issue.

Rev. Chandler quickly reversed himself after the letter became public, and issued a statement with the board that indicated the state NAACP’s continued opposition to the natural gas compressor station.

The other complaints focus on Rev. Chandler’s alleged efforts to give Linda Thomas of Bowling Green, a former state NAACP president, a larger paid role in the organization.

Allegedly, Rev. Chandler awarded a secret $10,000 contract to Ms. Thomas to handle planning for the 2018 state convention. The state board later approved the contract.

Rev. Chandler also sought to get the board to approve hiring Ms. Thomas as interim executive director in spring 2018, but did not win a majority.

The complaint also alleges that Rev. Chandler and two other officers have bypassed the treasurer, James Boyd of Portsmouth, by issuing NAACP checks without proper requisitions.