NAACP to Investigate Local Vote
The national board of directors of the NAACP will review a controversial election in the Ventura County chapter whose outcome was questioned by a candidate, a spokesman at the organization’s headquarters said Thursday.
The board will review the December election--in which 10-year incumbent president John R. Hatcher III defeated past president Fred Jones--at its annual convention in July, said Jim Williams, a spokesman at the NAACP’s national office in Baltimore.
In the meantime, the results of the election will stand, Williams said.
“The decision now has been reached to retain the status quo . . . and to have the entire matter examined by our board of directors,” Williams said.
After hearing of the decision, Jones asked Chairman William F. Gibson this week to intervene in the dispute, which has been simmering in the local chapter for several weeks.
Jones, a past president of the branch in the 1960s and 1970s, lost the Dec. 14 election to Hatcher in a 51-15 vote. Two days later, Jones lodged a complaint with the national office, charging numerous election violations.
The alleged infractions included holding the election in two different places on different days, not notifying all 200 branch members before the election and delaying the ballot count.
The complaint was signed by 10 other members of the local chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.
In a Jan. 31 reply to Jones’ complaint, William H. Penn Sr., branch and field services director at the national office, said that although mistakes were made, “we are convinced that the errors made did not have a significant effect on the outcome of the branch election.”
However, another letter from Penn, dated March 4, contradicted that ruling. The letter said that the branch had violated numerous election procedures and that the mistakes changed the outcome of the election. In that letter, a new election was ordered.
NAACP spokesman Williams said Thursday that he did not know the reason for the two different decisions. He said the investigation of the complaint was done by staff members in Penn’s office.
Penn was not available for comment Thursday, Williams said.
Jones said he believes that the March 4 letter, which responded to his eight allegations point by point, is the valid letter and that the brief Jan. 31 letter was sent by mistake.
“It looks like a comedy of errors that nobody can give an explanation for,” Jones said.
In his letter to board chairman Gibson this week, Jones said he wanted to know why the order for a new election was rescinded and the earlier decision upheld.
Jones’ complaint alleged that one reason the election violated NAACP rules is that voting was done twice, once on Dec. 3 in Simi Valley and again on Dec. 14 in Oxnard. Also, the ballots were not counted until after the Dec. 14 election, the complaint said.
Jones said he first complained to the national office after the Dec. 3 balloting.
In the March 4 letter, NAACP officials said that holding the election in two places on different days was unprecedented in NAACP history and that the delay in counting the ballots “raises serious questions as to the integrity of the process.”
But Hatcher said Thursday that the election was conducted properly.
Hatcher said the ballots from the Dec. 3 Simi Valley election were locked in a box and held by an impartial third party. He said he did not have access to the ballots.
“The election was done by the Ventura County NAACP following the guidelines set out in the constitution,” Hatcher said. “If I had done something I would admit it, but I haven’t done anything. The election was done fairly.”
Hatcher and other officers will be installed in a ceremony tonight at the Oxnard Community Center.
Hatcher said he plans to attend the NAACP national convention in Houston in July to propose a resolution to better define who is eligible to run for offices in local chapters and to clarify the criteria that determine active membership.
Jones said he and other members had not even been notified of tonight’s installation ceremony. He said he remains hopeful that the national board’s examination of the case in July will lead to a new election.
“All I want is a level playing field,” Jones said. “If Mr. Hatcher wins when we have an election that follows the rules, I have no problem with that.”