- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2007

Longtime members of the NAACP were not surprised by the abrupt resignation of its president, Bruce S. Gordon, whose corporate background was a difficult match for the activist organization.

“It was a big mistake to bring a corporate person into the NAACP,” said Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., deputy majority whip of the Maryland House.

“Bruce Gordon could write a memo and send it down the line over at Verizon, and the job gets done because someone’s job is on the line. But that is not how it works when you are dealing with volunteers and board members with their own egos and positions of power,” Mr. Burns said.

It has been clear for some time, even during last year’s annual convention, that there was tension between Mr. Gordon’s no-nonsense, apolitical style and that of the 64-member board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People led by Chairman Julian Bond.

Mr. Gordon, who announced his resignation Sunday, insisted from the outset, that the organization be more concerned about solving problems — both its fiscal problems and those in the community — in a more hands-on fashion.

But the activist organization has always held a tradition of change through legal action and social protest rather than a businesslike, self-help organization, work usually taken on by the National Urban League.

Mr. Gordon told the Associated Press there was some discomfort with the board’s authority and ideas superseding his: “I’m used to a CEO running an organization, with the board approving strategy and policy. But the NAACP board is very much involved.”

Mr. Gordon, 61, was president of Verizon’s Retail Markets Group before he took the NAACP post.

Mr. Bond yesterday wished Mr. Gordon well in his “future pursuits,” and he named the group’s general counsel, Dennis C. Hayes, as interim president. He said the search for a new president will begin immediately.

Mr. Bond recently announced that the group would be moving its headquarters from Baltimore to the District, a decision that some don’t want.

“There are people on the executive board who are opposed to this move to D.C. because it looks to be part of the political agenda of Julian’s and has nothing to do with the mission of the organization,” said Jonathan Burr of the Washington County, Md., branch.

He said some board members wanted Mr. Gordon to oppose the move and were disappointed when he went along with Mr. Bond’s plans.

Just two years before the NAACP celebrates its centennial, the absence of a president is a clear setback for the organization that is coming out of its most tumultuous decade and recent legal troubles.

Last year, the Internal Revenue Service completed a two-year investigation into accusations that the group violated its nonprofit status when Mr. Bond gave what appeared to be a partisan-political speech disparaging President Bush. The group was cleared.

The NAACP was at its lowest point in the early 1990s when its then executive director, Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., entered into a six-figure, out of court settlement with his former executive assistant, Mary Stance, for sexual harassment without discussing it with the board.

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