Active NAACP Board Member Settled Bias Suit Similar to Chavis'
Aug. 30, 1994
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The NAACP settled a sex discrimination suit against a member of its board of directors three days before it fired Executive Director Benjamin Chavis for inking a similar settlement without the board's knowledge.
In an October 1993 lawsuit, Harriet Diles accused board member Gentry W. Trotter of harassing her, defaming her and firing her because she filed sex discrimination complaints with federal and local employment officials.
The harassment, Diles alleged, was part of longstanding ''policy and pattern of conduct'' at the civil rights organization. She sought more than $2 million in back pay and damages.
The NAACP and Trotter, of St. Louis, denied Diles' allegations in court documents. ''To the extent any statements were made about (Diles), such statements were true and protected by either a qualified or absolute immunity or privilege,'' they said.
The settlement was reached Aug. 17 and filed one day later in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Terms were not disclosed.
Neither Trotter nor Diles could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday. Dennis Hayes, NAACP general counsel, was out of town and unavailable for comment.
Diles' attorney, Howard Needle, declined to discuss the case, citing a confidentiality clause in the settlement. ''My hands are tied, I'm afraid,'' Needle said.
Diles had asked for $27,914.34 in back pay, unused vacation and severance. She also sought $600,000 in compensatory damages and $1.3 million in punitive damages for the loss of her job, defamation of character and emotional distress.
Chavis was fired as NAACP executive director Aug. 20 mainly because he used the group's money to settle sex discrimination claims raised by Mary E. Stansel, his former assistant.
That brought calls from women's groups not only for Chavis to resign, but also for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to evaluate its treatment of women.
Assistant NAACP general counsel Willie Abrams said the Diles case was of a different nature than the one that caused Chavis' downfall. ''There's no analogy to Stansel at all,'' he said.
Trotter was present at the Aug. 20 meeting. It is not known how he voted in the board's 53-5 decision to fire Chavis.
Chavis also has sued the NAACP, seeking a buyout of his 3-year contract, which was worth $200,000 a year plus housing, pension and insurance benefits. A status hearing is scheduled for Friday in Superior Court for the District of Columbia.
Diles was hired in May 1990 as advertising director for the NAACP's magazine, Crisis, which is published by Trotter. She was fired in June 1993.
''During the last months of Diles' employment by Crisis and (the) NAACP, Diles was badgered and intimidated and otherwise constantly and unreasonably harassed by Trotter and others on behalf of Crisis and NAACP,'' her lawsuit said.
Diles' lawsuit does not detail how she was harassed, but says it was ''malicious, willful, intentional, reckless and in deliberate disregard'' for how she might be affected emotionally.
''During the course of such harassment Diles was prevented from being effective and fully productive in her job as director of advertising,'' the lawsuit said.
Diles filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission. Trotter and the NAACP refused to cooperate with those investigations, her lawsuit alleged.