Twenty-five members of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood Chapter of the NAACP have filed a petition with the national organization to have last week’s local election of officers nullified because of alleged irregularities, members said Saturday.
The petition charges that a voter eligibility list was altered by certain members of the winning slate under supervision of chapter President Willis Edwards. Individuals who were not valid members of the branch were added to the list shortly before the election, and valid ones taken off, the petition alleges. In the voting, incumbent Edwards received 176 votes to rival Connie Watson’s 112.
“The allegations are not true. There was no tampering of any sort and it’s an insult to this organization to say that. I won fair and square,” Edwards said Saturday.
Last month, another local branch was scrutinized by the national organization. Anthony Essex, the Los Angeles NAACP branch president, was reprimanded for unauthorized use of $5,000 in chapter funds. An aggressive campaign is now underway to defeat his attempts at relection scheduled for next Sunday.
Watson, former first vice president and executive committee member, said the chapter secretary was supposed to check the membership for accuracy before the national officials certified it. However, she said the secretary was denied access to the list by Edwards until the night before the national officials arrived.
One of the petition signers, chapter founder Maggie Hathaway, charged that she and other life members were removed from the list. She was allowed to vote after showing the election committee a plaque honoring her with life membership, Watson said. Branch members are required to pay their dues 30 days before an election in order to vote.
Edwards said Saturday that both he and Watson “signed off” on the membership list, indicating that things were in order, and that the election was certified by national officials. The individuals who were accused of making the changes, one of whom was a membership chairman, were in reality doing normal paper work, he said.
Edwards added that an emergency petition, signed by 50 members, was filed in October against Watson for alleged “disrespect of the organization and failing to follow the chain of command.” He refused to elaborate.
Watson said she had not been told the contents of the petition filed against her, but assumed it might be because she wrote a letter on NAACP stationery and did not have it reviewed by Edwards.
Neither petition has been heard yet by national officials.
William Penn, a national branch director who supervised the Beverly Hills election, could not be reached Saturday.
The office of president is not a paid position. Edwards, who has held an executive post for 12 years, has catapulted the group into prominence in Beverly Hills with a gala annual Image Awards banquet for Hollywood stars. He said his main work has been to fight for more black access to the entertainment industry.