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NAACP Stands by Chapter President

January 17, 2001

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ The president of a local NAACP chapter should be allowed to keep her position despite a 1986 felony conviction for stealing more than $6,600, local NAACP officials said.

Paula Harris was suspended last week from her job at Highmark Inc./Pennsylvania Blue Shield after the company received an anonymous letter about the conviction.

But Charles C. Stokes, president of the Pennsylvania Conference of the NAACP, said Tuesday that the conviction shouldn’t prevent Harris from holding office.

``She has paid her penalty and she should be allowed to secure whatever future she wants for herself,″ Stokes said.

Harris said she thinks members of the Greater Harrisburg National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sent the letter.

``I have been under attack by a certain group of people who are NAACP members,″ Harris said in a statement Tuesday. ``I have been threatened on my job, home, tires on my car mysteriously slashed twice ... and now this.″

Convicted felons are required by federal law to receive permission from the state Insurance Department before working in the field. Harris said she is applying for permission to continue to work for Highmark.

Harris, 47, pleaded guilty in 1986 to four counts of forgery and theft by deception for taking four checks from the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, where she was the bookkeeper. She served about two months in prison.

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