AFFIRMED: Kevin Johnson’s term as president of the National Conference of Black Mayors since last May, his first month in office, has been affirmed as a judge has ruled decidedly in Johnson’s favor. NNPA Photo
After intense internal fighting, court battles and competing board of directors that have characterized Sacramento, Calif. Kevin Johnson’s term as president of the National Conference of Black Mayors since last May, his first month in office, a judge has ruled decidedly in Johnson’s favor, effectively firing Executive Director Vanessa R. Williams and nullifying all actions of the rump board challenging Johnson’s right to remain in office.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher S. Brasher issued his ruling in Atlanta last week.
:”We’re gratified that the court has validated the election of our leadership and vindicated our efforts to take the necessary steps to restore accountability and fiscal integrity to this venerable and critical organization,” Johnson said in a statement. “Now we can move forward by taking the actions that will address any outstanding problems we have in order to ensure that the NCBM will benefit current and future mayors and their constituents.”
In some ways, it may be a Pyrrhic victory for Johnson. He is limited to one term, which expires next month. Johnson is also vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and is a leading candidate to become president of the group in June.
When he was elected president of the Black mayors last May, many members thought he was just what the group needed. After all, it was still reeling from its previous president, George L. Grace, Sr. of tiny St. Gabriel, La., being sentenced to 22 years in prison for stealing from the organization. Grace, who set up secret NCBM bank accounts in his name in Louisiana, was convicted of bribery, obstruction of justice, mail fraud, wire fraud, making false statements and violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ACT (RICO) and use of an interstate facility in the aid of racketeering.
In addition to illegally diverting money from the Black mayors’ group, Grace was also found guilty of extorting businessmen seeking to do business with the city and demanding kickbacks from operators setting up temporary housing in his city for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Former President Robert Bowser, who had preceded Grace in the top job, was called back into temporary service to help stabilize the organization, Bowser, mayor of East Orange, N.J., was initially convinced that Kevin Johnson provided the fresh face and name recognition that would help the organization recover from George Grace’s disgraceful conduct.
And Bowser was not alone. Johnson was unanimously elected president by voice vote on May 30, 2013. The former Phoenix Suns point guard vowed to “shake up things” and called a business meeting for the next day. It was clear that unlike presidents who viewed their role as largely ceremonial, Johnson was going to be different.
According to minutes of the meeting, “Upon a motion made by Mayor Johnny Ford, which was seconded by Mayor Oliver Gilbert, the Board of Directors voted to delegate to the Special Task Force, the power of the Board for the following purposes: (1) to comprehensively investigate facts concerning NCBM;s 501 ( c ) (3) status, any litigation involving NCBM, and the financial and business affairs, obligations and duties of NCBM; (2) to supervise the management of the ordinary affairs of NCBM; and (3) to engage Ballard Spahr LLP, as its counsel, and such other professionals, and to take such other actions as the Special Task Force deems necessary and appropriate to accomplish these purposes.”
The motion passed unanimously.