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Minneapolis NAACP Parent Information Centers hit the fan

by Doug Mann, 15 Feb. 2005  [update 16 Feb. 2005]


On June 28, 2003 a two-thirds majority at a Minneapolis NAACP branch meeting passed a motion to instruct the branch president to take no steps toward opening any "Parent Information Centers" and to return the $152,400 (plus interest) he received from the Minnesota Department of Education to set up two Parent Information Centers, for two reasons.

1) A conflict of interest. The NAACP has a duty to serve as an advocate for students it represented in an educational adequacy lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Education. The NAACP has no credibility as a representative of the plaintiffs when it is being paid by and placed under the supervision of the defendant, the Minnesota Department of Education;

2) The failure of the Minneapolis NAACP branch to serve as an advocate for students it represented in the educational adequacy lawsuit since 1999. The lawsuit was settled in 2000.

The branch membership meeting on June 28, 2003 was the first opportunity for members to approve or reject the state's proposal to involve the NAACP in the operation of Parent Information Centers after the grant proposal was made available to and reviewed by branch members in an open committee meeting.  

Prior to June 28, 2003 the president and executive committee of the Minneapolis branch had not received approval from anyone in the NAACP national office to sign any contracts or to spend any money on the Parent Information Centers project.

A letter dated June 30, 2003 from the office of Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO of the NAACP stated that the Minneapolis Branch may go forward with the Parent Information Centers project, but only if certain conditions are met, including the approval of a personnel policy by the branch membership, which never happened.

The NAACP Parent Information Centers, a component of "Minnesota's Voluntary School Choice Project," were funded by a federal "No child left behind" grant. The text of the grant proposal, dated August 16, 2002, indicates that representatives of the Minneapolis NAACP branch and the Minneapolis School District had made a commitment to participate in the project. However, the branch president, Shalia Lindsey did not inform the branch about the state's proposal to open NAACP Parent Information Centers until October 2002.


At the annual membership meeting of the Minneapolis NAACP branch on December 11, 2004, a resolution was approved that "supports the incorporation of the Minneapolis Parent Information Centers"...and supports..."transferring the MN-Voluntary School Choice grant contract from the Minneapolis Branch of the NAACP to the newly incorporated Minneapolis Parent Information Centers."

Unbeknownst to most members of the Minneapolis NAACP branch who voted for and against the resolution, the parent information center (PIC) contract had expired in September 2004 and was extended to 31 December 2004, through a separate agreement with the state, to allow the branch to spend a large amount of money that was still in its PIC account. There was still about $50,000 left over as of January 2005.

The Minneapolis NAACP branch leadership reportedly decided, at a retreat in August 2004, to set up the  Parent Information Centers, inc., which was incorporated in October 2004. The PIC resolution passed on 11 December 2004 created the illusion that the leadership was operating within the by-laws of the organization.  

NAACP branch president Duane Reed and treasurer Jesse Overton took charge of the closing-out of the NAACP Parent Information Centers in January, but the PIC, inc. initially refused to turn over the records. However, by early February Minneapolis NAACP branch officers took possession of and inspected the PIC's financial records. On Tuesday, 8 February 2005 Reed, Overton, Larry Tucker, and others attended a meeting where the NAACP PIC records were reviewed and discussed. Some who had requested to be notified in the event such a meeting was called  (including myself and at least one other member of the executive committee) were not notified.  

In his report to the branch executive committee on Feb. 11 and at the general membership meeting on Feb. 12, Duane Reed asked for and received approval of a recommendation to the National NAACP board to "Maintain the Administrator position to focus on complete closure of the PIC." I, for one, would have opposed that motion had I been informed about what  the administrator was in a position to know, and that the leadership had been misrepresenting the situation to the membership. Maintaining the administrator position involves scheduling executive committee meetings and branch membership meetings back-to-back for the convenience of the administrator, which does not allow adequate time for committee chairs to revise the reports they present to both meetings, and for those who attend both meetings to digest what they hear at the executive committee before the start of the branch membership meeting.

Reed and Overton also failed to report any concerns about the NAACP PIC records. However, Larry Tucker voiced concerns about the NAACP PIC records, including the NAACP PIC executive director getting paid $100 per hour, newly hired employees being given $5,000 sign-on bonuses, and about $200,000 spent in "consultant fees." No one disputed the veracity of Tucker's statements.

There is unquestionably a great deal of pressure on the branch officers from members of the national NAACP board of directors and staff, and from the local political establishment, to engage in damage control on the behalf of NAACP leaders and prominent figures within the black community who made the NAACP PIC happen. I have asked Duane Reed to call a special branch meeting to update the membership and consider how to proceed.

One doesn't have to be a lawyer to understand the law. And ignorance is generally not accepted as an excuse for not following the law in a business, profession, or in carrying out one's duties as an officer or member of the board of directors of a nonprofit organization. Just as nurses are expected to act like they are familiar with the nurse practice act, officers and executive committee members of the Minneapolis NAACP Branch are expected to act in accordance with the constitution and by-laws of the NAACP and legal standards of conduct for board members of a nonprofit corporation operating in the state of MN. (That information should be furnished to new board members as part of the training for new board members)

16 Feb. 2005 Update / new information

 A consultant from for the Management Assistance Program gave a detailed report to a group of executive committee members, including Duane Reed, Jesse Overton, Larry Tucker, and 3 other executive committee members on Tuesday, 8 February 2005. Reed and Overton failed to report on the findings of the MAP consultant and recommend any action.

However, in response to a line of questioning from me at the executive committee meeting of Feb. 11, the MAP consultant (who was present) did recommend that the branch get an outside audit done, offered his opinion that an outside audit is legally required, and recommended an accounting firm.  I was unaware at the time that the MAP consultant was recommending an outside audit on the basis of his own review of the books, and was not simply stating his agreement that nonprofit corporations that are recipients of grants from the state of MN are required to get an outside audit from time to time. I (Doug Mann) declared that we should get an audit, but not did formally place a motion of the floor. The administrator, Carl Breeding said that we didn't need an outside audit. At the general membership meeting I asked that my declaration in favor of getting an audit be placed in the minutes.