Election of Kevin Johnson to head Black mayors group ‘invalid’

George Curry | 7/12/2013, 5:28 a.m.
After accepting a determination by the attorney for the National Conference of Blacks Mayors that the organization’s May 30 election ...
Mayor Kevin Johnson NNPA

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – After accepting a determination by the attorney for the National Conference of Blacks Mayors that the organization’s May 30 election in Atlanta was invalid, more than half of the board members in good standing have written to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, directing him to “table all matters” until the board meets again, according to documents obtained by the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service.

Johnson was elected president of the NCBM at that election, but since the election was declared invalid, the board of directors in place at the time of the election has resumed control of the organization until a new election can be held, probably in September.

Efforts to reach Johnson for comment via telephone, text and email were unsuccessful.

A board meeting is scheduled for this Friday afternoon in Atlanta. At the meeting, it is expected that the board of directors will set a date for the new elections.

The internal documents obtained by the NNPA, whose authenticity was verified by several board members, detail an election that violated at least four provisions of the group’s bylaws and an ongoing clash between Ballard Spahr, a Philadelphia-based law firm brought in by Johnson, and General Counsel Susan “Sue” Winchester of Beverly Hills, Calif., and Atlanta-based Executive Director Vanessa R. Williams.

Moreover, interviews with more than a half-dozen board members revealed a deep split between the board and Johnson, who has used Ballard Spahr and a special task force appointed by him – he serves as its chairman – to carry out many of the duties normally undertaken by the board of directors.

In a memorandum to the National Conference of Black Mayors, dated June 13, Attorney Winchester wrote, “Mayor Otis Wallace, Esq., Parliamentarian of the National Conference of Black Mayors Inc., has indicated to me that he has received complaints from several Mayors about the election process during the 39th annual convention in Atlanta, GA. Mayor Wallace has requested me to review this matter. Accordingly, as General Counsel of NCBM, I am writing this memo pursuant to Mayor Wallace’s request and set forth below I address the specific issues that Mayor Wallace has identified.”

Among the complaints listed:

  • Several mayors voted who were not qualified to vote because they did not pay dues in a timely manner or didn’t pay them at all. (Section 2.6 of the NCBM bylaws states only mayors who were current at least 10 days prior to the opening plenary session of the annual convention are eligible to vote).

  • The Nominating Committee consisted of only one mayor (Section 5.3 (a) provides for five mayors serving on the Nominating Committee.)

  • Voting by voice vote and by hand were used (Section 5.3 (d) states that the election of officers shall be by secret ballot).

  • The election was not properly supervised (Section 5.3 (d) also states that a supervisor be appointed for the elections).

“Please note, the above does not constitute a complete list of all violations,” Winchester wrote. On the first page of her memo, the board attorney wrote in all capital letters: THE BOARD AND OFFICERS OF NCBM UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF PRESIDENT MAYOR BOWSER IS STILL EFFECTIVE AND VALID.”