August 13, 2010

Insider portrays Racine NAACP as a dysfunctional organization

The Racine branch of the NAACP is in turmoil, according to an insider with the organization.

The anonymous tipster - they frequently say they fear for their safety if they reveal their name - wrote a lengthy, detailed, scathing report documenting a series of concerns/scandals inside the organization. It's not a pretty picture. The writer, who sent the report under the email "Justice Deferred" uses internal emails and intimate knowledge of the NAACP branch's finances and votes to paint a picture of a dysfunctional organization.

We can confirm several local NAACP members have had these concerns for several months. This is the first time we've seen anyone pull together several threads into one coherent document revealing the inner-workings of the organization. 

Local NAACP President Michael Shields takes the brunt of the criticism in the report. Craig Oliver and Keith Fair are also attacked. In trying to confirm these reports, we're told by another insider - separate from the one who wrote this report - that there's a battle inside the local organization between a new and old guard. The new guard wants to be more aggressive in the community, according to the insider, while the old guard wants to sit back and not make waves. 

But before the organization makes strategic decisions about its role in Racine, it appears it has a deep rift within its ranks it will need to heal. 

Here's the insider's full report on problems within the organization: 

Racine, Wisconsin NAACP Branch: An Organization Out of Control
Over the last year, present and former members of the Racine Branch of the NAACP have reached out to NAACP Wisconsin State Director, Thomas White as well as Midwest Region Director Dr. Jerome Reide with concerns regarding the actions of the Branch President, Michael Shields and several members of the Racine Executive Committee. Unfortunately, branch member’s continued requests for intervention have been ignored or marginalized. On August 3rd, Dr. Reide was sent a detailed outline by a group of Racine Branch members denoting concerning behavior and actions over the last year with a final request to make some inquiries.

Because of legitimate concerns for safety and intimidation, the outline was sent anonymously but contained more than enough detail of previous communications to substantiate knowledge only members of the Racine Branch could have. Dr. Reide refused to engage in a discussion with any anonymous source. When a follow-up message was sent explaining personal safety concerns for anyone who would sign the document, Dr. Reide never replied.

This information sent to public media sources arrives with trepidation and sadness. Racine Branch members have been trying desperately to address these concerns from within the organization but our efforts have been thwarted. Many of us have contacted the NAACP National Office in the hope they would assist our efforts to resolve activities that have taken place against the wishes of the general membership. We were told to wait until elections were held and to stay quiet. As the situation has deteriorated, we find that we can no longer quietly abide watching our organization become dismantled and discredited. However it the misuse of funds: particularly Freedom Fund resources that have compelled us to finally speak to the media.

Like most branches of the NAACP, the Racine Branch has a Freedom Fund trust that has been built by contributions and events such as the annual Freedom Fund Gala each year. The Freedom Fund is used to provide scholarships as well as legal assistance to people in the community who are in need. It is the bedrock of the NAACP as an institution. The Racine Branch has accrued approximately $100,000 in its Freedom Fund trust, an amount which surprises most people not familiar with the local NAACP. It has been built over the years by donations and its use is entrusted to each elected board of the Racine Branch. NAACP Executive Committee members understand the special custodial care the general membership has given them to protect these funds for future use.

In Racine, it has always been the policy of the branch to use these funds for scholarships, education and legal defense for victims of racial discrimination and not for incidental use particularly for items that have not been part of the annual budget. Earlier this year, when Branch President, Michael Shields requested such funds for personal reimbursement - which had not been budgeted - the general membership took the extraordinary measure to vote this policy into actual branch law in April of 2010.

The official minutes reflect this vote:

“Racine Branch NAACP Membership Meeting
Dr. John Bryant Community Center
April 24, 2010
1)  Freedom Fund Account – Lawrence Terry reminded the membership that monies in the freedom fund account was put in this account over 25 years ago to be used only for legal cases and lawsuits. The following motion was made by Carl Lassiter and second by Joseph Mitchell: “Monies from the freedom fund account will only be used for legal matters and arbitrations, not general operation”.  Motion carried.”

Here is the background:

In the fall of 2009, President Shields requested to attend the first quarter conference and also requested a payment of $950 to cover his expenses. The general membership approved his request to attend but tabled the expense money motion because it had not been budgeted. The President asked that it be spent from the Freedom Fund account in spite of strong dissension from the membership and it did not come to a vote. He went to the conference anyway.

Over the next few months the general membership declined to approve this expense even after the President attended the conference. After the vote in April, President Shields took the briefcase belonging to the Treasurer and removed a branch check from the NAACP checkbook without his permission and over his objections. Mr. Shields returned the check the next day perhaps realizing his grave transgression against the branch; however his actions indicate an arrogant disregard for his position and the trust and authority of the membership. The Treasurer confided this incident to several members of the Executive Committee.

In the June general meeting, President Shields asked Racine County Democratic Party Secretary, Penny Sharp to attend the meeting with the intended purpose of introducing a motion that the President be paid $950 in expenses in direct contradiction of the vote by the general membership that no non-emergency funds be used from the Freedom Fund. Mrs. Sharp made the motion over wild objections of members in attendance and it was wrongly sent to Executive Committee. As the general membership being the highest authority and having already voted on how expenses should be made, it was totally inappropriate for this motion to have even been made. Mr. Shields ignored the policy of the branch, presumably so that he could get this motion passed in a smaller, more favorable setting.

When members declared that this was against branch law and the supporting vote would be stipulated in the minutes from May: President Shields refused to produce a copy minutes from May. He withheld proof of their proper and legal vote. Actions such as these are tantamount to attempted theft.

Perhaps if this incident had been an isolated case regarding irregularities in branch funds, it could be seen as an anomaly. However, it is not.

-After the October 2009 Freedom Fund Dinner, Committee members were to reconcile the expenses and proceeds detailing the number of tickets sold, membership that were collected and other expenses. When the President was pressed to offer a more detailed report by the Treasurer and other members, the Freedom Fund Chair, Membership Chair and Secretary, Lula Smith, resigned and walked out on the meeting. (They each returned to meetings after several months with no questions asked.) Ten months later, a detailed report has not been received. The general membership has no confidence or proof all funds were collected or deposited.

Inquires were made by various members as indicated in actual emails with no response:
“Subject: RE: Concerns about the Executive Committee
Date:    Mon, July 19, 2010 4:04 pm
To:  Executive Committee
At the Jan. 14,2010 EC meeting I asked  for the following info by Jan. 29,2010,but the motion amended to"as soon as possible:
1. How many tickets sold?
2. How many people attended the the banquest?
3. How many tickets were collected at the banquet?
4. How many memberships were turned at the banquet? (People signing the back of their banquet tickets.)
5. How many complimentary tickets(free tickets) given out to guests?
Now is the time for answers
What is Craig Oliver's position in the branch? Is his position mandated by the Constitution?”

And again:
“To: Executive Committee
Date: July 19, 2010
Re: Concerns about the Branch

I am sending you this e-mail out of concern for our Branch. Over the past two years our Executive Committee has become very dysfunctional. At our last Executive Committee meeting (7/8/2010) we failed to deal with any old or new business. After meeting more than two hours we only dealt with a few reports. The last 20 minutes of the meeting was consumed by a few members complaining about the membership meetings. And, one member even made reference to an "elephant" in the room.

During the above discussion two committee chairs(Freedom Fund Chair and Membership Chair) and the Secretary announced their resignation and walked out of the meeting.

I am also concerned about the Executive Committee unwillingness to deal with financial matters. At the January 2010 meeting the Executive Committee refused to set a date calling for the Freedom Fund Banquet Committee to give its final report. It is now nearly 10 months since the banquet was held and we still do not have a final banquet report.”

-In the spring of 2010 the branch held an awards dinner for Charles Swanson. The President turned in a report with money stating the event had generated an amount of approximately $2,900 offering no details or itemization. Shortly after, the Secretary submitted a report which stated the event had generated $3,500. Members of the Executive Committee asked the President repeatedly for a meeting to reconcile the $500 difference. All requests were denied or ignored. When questioned about the difference, then Secretary Armintta Franklin resigned. The discrepancy has never been resolved.

An email confirms this inquiry:
“To: President Michael Shields
Date: May 28, 2010
Financial Report for Roast/Awards Program

Please contact me as soon as possible concerning the financial report for the Swanson Roast. Armintta Franklin reported that the roast generated $3,495.00 in revenues(See attachments below). However, you have only given to me a total of $2,997.70. Please account for the discrepancy. Also, why are you circulating the Financial Report for the Nancy Henry/Roast for Charles Swanson Fund raiser? It has not been approved by the Executive Committee nor has it been presented to the membership for approval.

Also attached is the information that was forwarded to National Office.

Cc:Nazar Scott
  Jerome Reide”
And again:
“To:Executive Committee
Date:July 20, 2010
Re:Final Swanson Report & Discrepancy

Twice I have requested a meeting with President Shields regarding a discrepancy in the report circulated by the former roast chair, Armintta Franklin (see below for more details). To date President Shields has not responded to my requests to meet with him. I am requesting that the
Executive Committee ask President Shields to give it a full and comprehensive Swanson Roast/Nancy Henry Awards Report that will also clear up the $497.30 discrepancy.”
And again:
“Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2010 15:45:55
Subject: RE: [Fwd: Re: Nancy Henry Awards & Swanson Roast]
Please explain to me and the other EC members where and how the nearly $500.00 error occured.”
                Only one reply came:
“From:    "Armintta Franklin"
Date:    Tue, July 20, 2010 4:22 pm
I believe that I've done that. You and 
(member’s name) attempt at trying to insinuate that the committee have some how misused or taken money is pathetic. Since the two of you can not accept that mistakes can happen, I suggest that (the Treasurer) find the money because apparently the money got lost once it fell into his hands.”

Because of the refusal to resolve discrepancies, the annual budget was not voted and accepted until April of 2010. These are not traditional organizational errors or oversight. Members aggressively tried to resolve inconsistencies and were prevented and intimidated from getting the facts.

It is our contention that in these matters, President Shields:
  • Disregarded branch policy and bylaws in order to receive Freedom Fund money.
  • Failed to report and itemize funds generated from NAACP events.
  • Disregarded and circumvented efforts by Executive Committee to resolve fund discrepancies.
  • Attempted to take NAACP money by taking a check from the Treasurer against his will and against NAACP bylaws.
  • Withheld NAACP public minutes from members circumventing their authority as the highest authority in NAACP business and policy.

Aside from the issues regarding funds, President Shields has overseen activities within the Racine Branch that have been in direct violation to National NAACP bylaws. In spite of efforts by members to curb these actions, Mr. Shields along with Political Action Chair, Keith Fair and “Community Coordinator” Craig Oliver have entered into “Direct Actions” in the Racine community without the approval of the National Office and the approval of the Racine Executive Committee or the general membership.

-In February of 2010, the Political Action Chair, Keith Fair and “Community Coordinator”, Craig Oliver called an “Emergency Community Leader Summit” to voice concerns over their perception of racism from Racine City Hall. They did not request or receive the permission of the general membership saying “it was between meetings”. It was not.  They held the meeting at City Hall, arranged by President Shields. The meeting was closed to the press in direct violation of the open meeting policy of the NAACP. 

Even more peculiarly the meeting was videotaped by City Cable Access employees without the knowledge or permission of any of the participants.

Fair, Oliver and Shields were chastised by the membership, but the damage had been done and they made no apology.
From the branch minutes that followed this “summit”:

March 11, 2010 – 5:30 p.m.
Racine/Kenosha Urban League Office
Mr. White responded to a question regarding what the national policy is regarding activities of the branch, and if a standing committee can put on a program without the approval from the membership or the Executive Committee. Mr. White indicated that it should go before the Executive Committee, and if there is time, it should be brought before the general membership.”

Further reported in the minutes:

· Meeting Saturday at City Hall with Community Leaders. The meeting took on a different course than intended because people were venting. The news media took some things out of context, and made it look as though we were ineffective. The meeting did not come before this body, it was a political action move, and it was between meetings.

CC Madsen asked for clarification on when things are considered a matter of immediacy and when things need to be brought before the Executive Committee and membership. It wasn’t something of such urgency that someone would be harmed, or we were going to lose our reputation or the Branch was going to be in jeopardy. It was blasted in the paper, people were invited, and people on the Committee didn’t know. There is a division because everything was not properly shared. If it had been brought before the board they could have offered some input. If we can’t collectively know and understand what is being presented to the public on the behalf of the Racine Branch NAACP then there is going to be a division.

Carl Lassiter indicated the sign on the door said the meeting was for invitees only. NAACP has a national policy that we are always open to the public. We are not a secret organization. Car 25 was filming and there were people there attacking a member of the County Board and the Mayor. It will be embarrassing if Car 25 puts that on TV.

Keith Fair indicated that Car 25 was not there filming to put the meeting on TV.

G. White – It did look bad in the paper when the Mayor came out and said the NAACP did not sanction the meeting.”

The NAACP National Office requires application for “Direct Action” for a branch to engage in any boycott, rally or coalition. The National office provides a check list for branches to assure direct actions are within the parameters dictated by the NAACP. None of these procedures were followed.  The instructions can be found on the National Website and are available to anyone:

Just a few months later, having completely ignored the objections of the general membership, Mr. Fair and Mr. Oliver entered into another direct action using the name of the NAACP, but did so for private economic interest and with the complicity of the branch President, Mr. Shields.

-On July 2, 2010 a “report” was released to local press titled:

“Downtown Racine Sun City, Sister City or Gaza on Lake Michigan, A Report on the State of Racine’s Downtown Submitted To: The Racine Branch National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: Racine Branch Executive Committee.”

The entire report can be read here:

 It lists no author or committee of the NAACP which either wrote or commissioned the report.

While the report contains no cited facts or statistics or direct quotes by witnesses, it accuses Racine City Hall, Common Council and Downtown Racine Corporation of systematic abuse of African Americans and imposing a police state in this community of approximately 80,000 people. Instead of focusing on relevant issues like unemployment, education or access to health care and other services, the report focuses on police presence at two downtown taverns in which there have been multiple shootings, assaults and loitering which have lead to fights and chaos on the street. The anonymous author maintains the city’s police presence is evidence of racism and “modern day plantation owners, using slave catchers to do their bidding.” This report states in its summary:

“The local NAACP based on public record plan to take action in various forms. One of those forms will be to enter into conversation with the Wisconsin and U.S. Justice Departments…”

The report reads as if it was commissioned and sanctioned by the NAACP branch. It was never brought up in any general or executive branch meeting prior to its release to the media.  It was never approved or voted on by any members of the NAACP. The report indicates a willingness to include the Justice Department, a direct action which requires permission of the National Office and a supporting resolution of the general membership. In direct contradiction to NAACP guidelines it offers no proof or complainant and no investigation by the legal redress committee was conducted or approved. The report contains childish misspelling and grammatical errors, ridiculous hyperbole and accusations so inflated they are comical. In its entirety, it is unbecoming to the NAACP and its mission.

The report was picked up in the press:

-On July 15th, after negative response and ridicule, President Michael Shields, told the press the report had been leaked prematurely. Presumably to assuage for its unprofessional and inflammatory content:

-On July 17th, it was revealed to members at the general membership meeting that Craig Oliver, the “Community Coordinator” was the author of the report. It was also revealed that Keith Fair, the Political Action Chair had released the report to the press. Keith Fair is the owner of one of the taverns discussed in the report and was scheduled to appear before the Racine Common Council regarding his liquor license and complaints of violence in his tavern just a few days later. Mr. Fair’s involvement demonstrates a direct economic private interest in these activities. Mr. Shields is an Alderman on the Common Council.

It is our contention that in these matters NAACP policy and bylaws were violated:
  • Acting with no permission or knowledge of the Racine NAACP membership, Craig Oliver created a report in the NAACP’s name charging the City of Racine and the Police Department with systematic acts of racism.
  • Keith Fair released the report advantageously timed to assist in his hearing before the Common Council, with Shields as a sympathetic Council member.
  • President Michael Shields lied to the press about his knowledge of the reports origins and disregarded all levels of policy and organization procedures before and after its release.

When NAACP members voiced their concerns and complaints about this report they were treated to intimidation and unpleasant emails.

“Sent: Thu, July 8, 2010 9:55:00 AM
Subject: RE: Report on Downtown Racine

Ok, in light of all these interviews and videos going around, we need to have an emergency meeting!  It will NOT be said that this report was authored by the NAACP and commissioned by the Board when it was not!  I believe the Board was only provided a copy because s*** was getting ready to hit the fan. I understand that it is alleged that this report had gotten in the wrong hands, but aside from that, there was no board involvement or awareness.  I may not attend meetings lately, but I do read the minutes and I did not find where this was addressed.  I also think that from this point forward there should be no written documentation from this Branch without Board approval.  You all as board members can not continue to sit around and say NOTHING and just let MESS continue to happen and say that it is fighting civil rights!”
The response to this email from Keith Fair:

“You continue get on this computer and spew misinformation that you yourself no nothing about so let us have this meeting.  Let me add I and this Branch would be in a sad state if we had or have to go through you in order to do civil rights business.
Let us have a meet and when we schedule let us provide time to air the issues at hand. The SLAVE mentality has to stop!!!”

The author of the report, Craig Oliver, misrepresents himself in public as “Community Coordinator” of the Racine Branch. His position was never brought before the general membership for a vote or approval. President Shields also refers to him as such with full knowledge the proper election procedure was never followed.  While Mr. Oliver holds no official position, he frequently tells the press he does:

Mr. Oliver’s standing has been questioned by the Executive Committee:
“To: Racine Branch N.A.A.C.P. Executive Committee
I have read page 43 of the By-Laws and it states:
b:  Community Coordination.  The Committee on Community Coordination shall enlist the support of other community organizations on issues affecting the interests of African American and other communities of color.
1.  Community Coordination is listed as a standing committee.  If anything, you would have been appointed as chairperson of the Community Coordination Committee.  However, the Executive Committee did not make this approval.  President Shields just announced that he appointed "Craig Oliver as Community Coordinator".

And again:
“According to our Bylaws Craig Oliver does not have an official position in
our Branch.”

Mr. Oliver’s reply is as follows:
 “Tuesday, July 20, 2010 7:15 AM
My Position
IF you have any questions about me, you can ask me. I would think that a man who prides hinself on being upfront with everything and so knowleadgeable aboput the NAACP then you would bring your concerns to me directly. Secondly, it further shows what you really know about the NAACP because you wopuld KNOW what [positions are mandated by the Consitituion. YES, my position is not only mandated by the consitution, but it was approved by the exceutive board when presented to them. You are less than the man that I thought you were tyo hide and ask bullshit questions instead of stepping into the light and directing your questions directly to me. What, you thought I was going to lie? If you put have the energy you put in to starting and keeping bullshit going then the organization could regain some sembalance of operational security. You have done NOTHING, NOTHING but raise hell and question people about things that you think people are going to lie to you about. No one fears you, what are you going to do to someone? You are no one that needs to be lied to. So go back and see what else you can stir up instead of trying to fight for people who cant fight for themselves. You are truly a sick old man with no life..........Craig Oliver Sr. Community Coordinator/Mandated by the Consitution Of the National NAACP 2010 version, page 43, section (b)”

And again in a different email:
“From: Craig Oliver <>
Sent: Tue, July 20, 2010 3:57:26 PM
Subject: Re: [Fwd: RE: Concerns about the Executive Committee]

What by-laws would those be (member’s name) according to the Nationals, seeing that since 1979 the Racine Branch has not had a set of by-laws that have been accepted by the National Organization. Thus being governern under the National by-lays the position of Community Coordinator is a position madated by National. This posiotion was also brought before the Executive Committee and ratified. Who the hell are you to send out a email saying someone is not an Executive Committee Member. You are just like the rest of the bloggers, sitting behind a computure and putting out whatever you wish…Now do you appoint Chairs, or does te President? You can always tell birds of a feather, they stick together and continue to attempt to mire others in their bullshit.”

Since these issues have become more critical, President Michael Shields has been holding Executive Committee meetings with little to no notification for Executive Board members and with no notification to the general membership. These covert meetings are designed to push through votes favorable for him and without due process before they are presented to the general membership. Recently, when a member of the press arrived to attend such a meeting, he was asked to leave in violation of the open meeting policy of the NAACP.

President Shields regularly directs the Secretary to alter meeting minutes to omit motions and votes he does not favor. In 2010 alone, Shields has refused to produce the actual branch minutes for February and May to be approved by the general membership because they contained motions and votes with which he disagrees intends to reverse.

When committee heads or officers resign after questioning by the general membership they resurface in their previous positions after a few months as if nothing ever happened. President Shields disregards their resignation without a vote to reinstate.

The Racine branch is irretrievable shattered and held hostage by rogue leaders who are misusing the good name of the NAACP for their own purposes. The National Office has been contacted in the past and the only response has been to ask us to file a complaint by 20 branch members. The environment of intimidation and mistrust makes it impossible to conduct any NAACP business coherently. The National Office’s abdication of responsibility after repeated requests and proof of malfeasance makes it party to this behavior as well. Wisconsin State Director, Thomas White has seen these activities first-hand and still refused to confront them. He has failed to stand up for the good men and women who built and supported the Racine NAACP for decades.

Longtime members are no longer attending meetings because they feel it is useless and leaders are silenced through intimidation. Worse, are the resignations of valued Executive Committee members because of concerns for their safety:

Sent: Mon, Jul 26, 2010 12:35 pm
Subject: Re: Special Called Meeting

On Thursday July 22, 2010 I attended the worse meeting I have ever attended in my life.  Due to the fact that there is a lack of respect bordering on violence shown between the president, the political action chair and  one of the vice presidents and the treasurer I question whether the executive committee cvan do what needs to be done.  Add the unauthorized essay to the mix and I wonder whether the NAACP can garner the respect in the community to do what it needs to do to help the citizens of Racine and especially the students in the district.  Since I value my life and limbs and pledged years ago to remove myself from situations I deemed unsafe this is my letter of resignation from the executive committee.  I have a commitment to pay for my silver life membership and would appreciate it if Lula would let me know how much I owe to fulfil that commitment.”

And again:
“August 10, 2010
Jerome Reide, Region III Director
4805 Mt. Hope Drive
Baltimore, Maryland 21215

Dear Mr Reide:

I am forwarding this letter to you in order to inform you about the toxic situation in the Racine Branch-NAACP.  Some members are feeling intimidated by certain members of the Executive Committee.  Please read the attached resignation letter written by(member’s name).  For example, on July 22, 2010 upon approaching the meeting place of the Branch’s Executive Committee meeting my pathway was blocked by a member.  When I asked the member to step aside and let me pass, he responded: “What if I don’t?  What are you going to do about it?”  My wife witnessed part of the altercation and as a result she is experiencing a lot of anxiety and dread attending any more Branch meetings.  Also, the same individual has sent me an e-mail that I feel is unbecoming of one who professes to champion civil rights (see attachments).  Another member was told that she had a” slave mentality” by one of our vice presidents (see attachment). No member of the NAACP should be required to be subjected to such intimidation and humiliation.”

It is our only and final hope that we have presented enough compelling evidence to prove malfeasance and contempt by certain leaders of the Racine Branch. We have done so at considerable risk. The NAACP has been an important part of Racine history and it must continue to be so in the future. Our concern for Freedom Fund trust is very real as it is not a small amount of money. We fear that good people who would risk much to protect it are being driven away with malice and intimidation leaving it vulnerable to those who would use it for other purposes.

Names have been removed from certain emails to protect their privacy, but be assured they are real. Spelling errors contained in these communications have also been included. We can forward you budgets and meeting minutes at your request. However as with our other communications to the National Office, we decline to sign our names for personal safety concerns. A number of people have compiled this information and we are all members of the Racine Branch.

All information contained here can be verified by many members of the Racine Branch of the NAACP if someone is willing to ask the questions. We are asking you to ask these questions.

Here's a reminder of why the NAACP matters ...

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