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

In a telephone interview with the NNPA, Mayor Robert Bowser of East Orange, N.J., said he contacted Johnson to discuss Attorney Winchester’s memo, but Johnson had an aide return his call. Bowser said he declined to discuss NCBM business with any of Johnson’s subordinates.

In a June 14 letter to board members, Bowser said, “As members of the board, please be advised that you are not to recognize in any way, shape or form the purported election that occurred on May 30th as it was not in compliance with the bylaws. As members of the board, we are not to recognize any calls and or meetings generated by individuals that were not properly elected.”

According to minutes of the May 31 special business meeting, supplied by one of Johnson’s supporters on the board, “President Johnson said that given the duties of the Board and in light of the many legal, financial and ethical challenges that NCBM has faced in recent years, it is incumbent on the new Board of Directors to undertake a serious forensic audit of the organization’s operations, finances and management in order to put the NCBM on the right footing.”

The minutes noted, “Upon a motion by Mayor Johnny Ford, which was seconded by Mayor Oliver Gilbert, the Board of Directors voted to delegate to the Special Task Force, the power of the Board for the following purposes: (1) to comprehensively investigate facts concerning NCBM’s 501 ( c ) (3) status, any litigation involving NCBM, and the financial and business affairs, obligations and duties of NCBM; (2) to supervise the management of the ordinary affairs of NCBM; and (3) to engage Ballard Spahr LLP, as its counsel, and such other professionals, and to take such other actions as the Special Task Force deems necessary and appropriate to accomplish these purposes. The motion passed unanimously.”

However, Miami Gardens, Fla. Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert, III, who seconded the motion to confer certain powers on the special task force, is not a board member, according to NCBM records.

The 16 board members – more than half of the 25 currently in good standing – who wrote to Johnson said, “Both the report and the minutes that were provided to the members of the board are not consistent with the discussion that was held regarding NCBM receiving assistance from Ballard Spahr during the membership meeting.”

In addition to the 16 members who signed the letter, at least four other board members are also supportive of the move to void the election, Bowser said.

According to emails obtained by the NNPA News Service, Valerie Allen, a partner in Ballard Spahr, first contacted Attorney Winchester by voicemail and email on June 5. The next day, Allen sent another email to Winchester demanding the immediate collection of NCBM “documents and information.” In what could be interpreted as a threat to Winchester’s ability to practice law in California, Allen wrote, “If you do not respond, as requested, we will be forced to pursue other avenues, including without limitation, seeking the assistance of the California Bar.”