Exclusive: State NAACP elections are scheduled for October; or are they?By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / March 23, 2023
When national NAACP President/CEO Derrick Johnson attended the N.C. NAACP Convention in Winston-Salem in 2019, he effectively canceled the state conference elections because he had suspended the Rev. Curtis Gatewood, a state conference presidential candidate accused of the sexual harassment of a female member, thus allowing then incumbent President Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman to remain in office another two years beyond his original term.
But Johnson did something else consequential.He assigned two national NAACP Board members – Hazel Dukes and Gloria Sweetlove – to serve as “administrators” over the North Carolina conference. That meant that as long as Sweetlove and Dukes were in place, the N.C. NAACP executive leadership had to follow their directives.
It soon became apparent that Administrator Sweetlove – who was also the longtime president of the Tennessee NAACP state conference, and also served as administrator for the Virginia state NAACP – would be the one making the final decisions for the N.C. NAACP whether then Pres. Spearman and the Executive Committee liked it or not.
One of her original assignments was to track down the source of alleged fiscal mismanagement.
That was 2019. It is now 2023, four years later, and Gloria Sweetlove is still the administrator in charge of oversight for the North Carolina state conference, to the continuing chagrin of many members.
So much so that on March 17th, a day after a contentious over four-hour Executive Committee meeting, 12 Executive Committee members, led by three of the four N.C. NAACP vice presidents, forwarded a joint letter of resignation to Administrators Sweetlove and Hazel Dukes, Conference President Deborah Maxwell and national Pres./CEO Derrick Johnson.
The very first line of the resignation letter stated that the March 16th executive committee meeting “…confirmed our most profound concerns about circumventing the constitutional authority of the North Carolina State Conference Executive Committee.
The spending of monies without discussion, approval, or ratification by the executive committee has only perpetuated the unrest in the state conference. The suspension of officers’ membership charged with the duly elected responsibility to maintain and secure financial transparency has continued the ongoing unrest in the State Conference.
We are resigning from the N.C. State Executive Committee due to a lack of trust and confidence in the ethical leadership of the State Conference,” the, stunning letter continued.
A major N.C. general market newspaper, The News and Observer, which picked up on “the N.C. NAACP tumult” story from the Black Press, reported that Executive Committee members had voted to fire state conference Executive Director Da’Quan Love, but technically couldn’t, because Administrator Sweetlove informed them that she had hired him.
It was yet another way Administrator Sweetlove has demonstrated that as long as she is in charge, things in the N.C. NAACP will be done her way.
During the middle of her four-year period, Sweetlove allegedly helped to engineer the election of former New Hanover County NAACP President Deborah Dicks Maxwell to oust incumbent Pres. Spearman in a controversial October 2021 election.
In his June 2022 lawsuit against Sweetlove, Pres./CEO Johnson, and certain members of the N.C. NAACP Executive Committee, Spearman alleged that the October 2021 election was deliberately designed to have him voted out of office.
“Not only did National usurp the N.C. NAACP’s right to carry out its own election, defendants withheld material information about the election including, but not limited to, when the election would take place, the duration of the election, and the method by which the election would be held,” Rev. Spearman, now deceased, alleged in his civil suit.
He went on to further allege, “At the behest of defendants (Derrick) Johnson and (NAACP Board Chairman Leon) Russell, defendant Sweetlove conducted the [October 2021] election in violation of the NAACP Constitution.”
According to a September 16, 2021 email letter from Administrator Sweetlove to “North Carolina NAACP State Conference #5480 members” regarding the “State Conference Elections for the North Carolina State Conference #5480,” she informed North Carolina branches that she was working with the national NAACP training director to “supervise your State Conference Election.”The Sweetlove Sept. 16, 2021 email letter is also important because that’s when she informs state conference members that the electronic “Election Buddy system” would be implemented for the upcoming state conference elections, which were then scheduled for October 9th.
It is the first official notice of the upcoming 2021 North Carolina state conference elections, scheduled to occur literally the following month.
The national training director was to “…work with salesforce regarding the process of vetting the eligibility of candidates and delegate voters,” Sweetlove wrote. She then went on to delineate “candidate eligibility to run for office and submission of required forms,” later stating that all consent forms and nominations must be submitted by September 30, 2021,” for state conference elections scheduled just nine days later.
And if you were a branch member “in good standing,” according to Administrator Sweetlove’s email letter, the eligibility of candidates and delegate voters must be as of September 9, 2021 – seven days before Sweetlove’s email letter to state conference membership was even sent, let alone written.
Administrator Sweetlove effectively changed the rules of the state conference election, “…in violation of the NAACP Constitution…,” Rev. Spearman alleged in his June 2022 lawsuit.
“Defendants engaged in tactics designed to disenfranchise plaintiff’s (Spearman’s) supporters. Such tactics included failing to make delegate information accessible to all candidates, unconstitutionally throwing out results of the first election in favor of a second election that defendants carried out after a large number of delegates – most of whom were plaintiff’s supporters – had already left the convention.”
Spearman also alleged in his lawsuit that “Defendants employed a computerized voting program (Election Buddy) to conduct the election without ensuring the program’s compliance with [NAACP] Constitutional rules which stated that elections were to be done by secret ballot.”
Rev. Spearman maintained that Deborah Maxwell “…had been given every advantage by defendants Johnson, Russell and Sweetlove, including delegate information which had been denied to other candidates including plaintiff.”
As it turned out, the controversial state conference elections then were actually held October 23rd, 2021, not Oct. 9th as originally scheduled, and Rev. Spearman filed an official complaint with the national NAACP office by Oct. 27th as per NAACP Bylaws, only to have it dismissed later.
Why is this backstory important now?
Because there are multiple sources in, or formerly in the N.C. NAACP who allege Administrator Sweetlove is manipulating the state conference’s election process again, with the goal of keeping Pres. Maxwell in office unchallenged for another two-year term.
Part of the national NAACP procedure to qualify members as possible candidates for state conference offices like president; first, second, third or fourth vice president; secretary, assistant secretary, treasurer, assistant treasurer; at-large Executive Committee members and directors for districts is to have the state conference secretary send out letters to qualifying conference branches to notify eligible members who wish to run for state office as to what forms and actions are required, and when to submit them.
That letter, according to the “Manual on State/State Area Conference Election Procedure,” is mandated to be mailed by or before a certain date by certified mail, this year being February 1st, in order to be returned by interested candidates by June 15th by certified mail, so that possible 2023 candidates can be determined for this year’s state conference elections, scheduled for Saturday, October 7th, during the state NAACP Convention in Wilmington.
Effectively and constitutionally for the 2023 state conference elections, possible candidates are supposed to be given over four months to comply with the requirements to qualify.
But multiple sources have confirmed, now more than a month after the constitutionally mandated deadline, that that qualifying letter was never sent out on or before February 1st as required.
To back up that claim, sources provided this newspaper with several emails, detailing how now former N.C. NAACP Secretary Sylvia Barnes (she was suspended by the national NAACP Board on February 17th, 2023 during its meeting in New York) sent an email of concern on Feb. 2, 2023 to N.C. NAACP Executive Director Da’Quan Marcell Love.
It reads in part:
“The manual did say the branches should receive the letter by certified mail as in the old manual February 1st. I still have the letters that I prepared to be mailed on January 25th. I feel my directions should come from the elections procedure committee or President Maxwell. This unresponsive direction is not acceptable since individuals wishing to petition to run for an office may be effected. Those forms must be mailed back to the committee by certified mail on or before June 15th. For persons wishing to seek office.”
Executive Director Love then replied:
“As a reminder we all have been directed by Mrs. Sweet-Love not to disseminate any additional information until she advises otherwise. The state conference remains under administration. Do not disseminate anything per her directive.”
“I had those letters ready to go to the mailbox,” former Secretary Barnes said on a personal video message to NAACP friends and colleagues last week.
“This is the year for the state conference elections,” Barnes maintains. “If the branches and the people who choose to run for office cannot get that information, and send it back by June 15th, there will be no election of the state conference.”
Barnes added, “I think Ms. Sweetlove knows she has the authority to do the same thing that Mr. Derrick Johnson did [over elections in 2019), and I think that it was planned that those letters would not go out, which would give Ms. Deborah Dicks Maxwell another two-year term to try to correct the damage, the hurt and the harm that she has caused in this North Carolina State conference.”
This email correspondence confirms that Administrator Sweetlove allegedly has once again circumvented an established, NAACP constitutional election protocol, as was done in 2019 by national NAACP Pres. Derrick Johnson when he canceled the elections that year, and Sweetlove herself allegedly manipulated in 2021, effectively calling the 2023 state conference elections of the N.C. NAACP into question now.
If all of the above is true, then what possible opportunity do rank-and-file N.C. NAACP members have to change their state leadership if the written national NAACP mandated election process for state conference elections is allegedly being manipulated without their knowledge or input?