The national office of the NAACP has stepped in to silence a public feud between Philadelphia chapter president J. Whyatt Mondesire and three board members by suspending all of them.
In a brief statement Friday, the national NAACP confirmed that the four members were suspended following an inquiry.
"There is an internal administrative process which provides suspended members with a right to appeal," the NAACP said, adding that it would make no other comment on the matter.
The suspensions, first reported Friday by the Philadelphia Tribune, were effective April 2, and include board members Donald Birts, the Rev. Elisha Morris, and Sid Booker.
The Tribune said the four local officers were told to cease acting as representatives of the NAACP and had 15 days from the date of the letter to request a hearing before the national board of directors.
Mondesire did not respond to repeated calls for comment.
An attorney for the three dissident board members, Gerard Egan, confirmed that his clients had received suspension letters from the national office a few days ago. Egan said they would contest the action.
"We want to face our accusers," he said.
The tension between Mondesire and his three critics has been escalating for months. They have called into question Mondesire's financial management of the Philadelphia chapter.
"We've done everything proper to try to protect the interests - local, national and statewide - of the NAACP," Egan said. "It seems to me they're being unfairly punished merely because they are asking for answers that should have been answered long ago."
In particular, they have questioned what happened to a $10,000 donation to the local NAACP from Market East Associates, a group vying for a casino license in Philadelphia. Mondesire, as head of the local NAACP chapter, made a public declaration of support for the Market8 Casino, one of five projects vying for a license in the city.
The three also have demanded an accounting of a $500 donation from Booker to the local chapter. Booker has maintained the money was meant to help underwrite the local chapter's annual gala.
In a column Monday in his weekly newspaper, the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, Mondesire addressed the "scurrilous charges" against him.
When Booker gave him the check for $500, Mondesire wrote, the restaurateur told him to use the money "for whatever the NAACP needed."
Mondesire said he deposited the check into an account belonging to Next Generation Community Development Corp., a nonprofit he controls that owns the building housing the local NAACP office.
He said he had been "careful" about publicly discussing the dispute "out of concern for the image and brand of the NAACP."
Of the $10,000 from Market East, he said, $5,000 went directly to the NAACP's ACT-SO program, which encourages academic achievement among African American youth. A portion of the rest was used to restore gas service at the NAACP's offices, and the remainder was deposited in the nonprofit's account as a hedge against building expenses.