From the AJC:
About half of the national board of directors of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference voted Saturday to oust the group’s chairman and treasurer, but the move was immediately challenged by other members who called it an attempted coup.
The vote and subsequent challenge revealed that internal strife continues at the civil rights organization that Martin Luther King Jr. helped form. The division focuses on longtime chairman the Rev. Raleigh Trammell and treasurer Spiver Gordon, both under scrutiny in a criminal probe of SCLC finances.
At the meeting at West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, 16 members of the SCLC board voted to oust the chairman and treasurer. Another three voted by proxy in favor of the move, and one member who was present declined to vote.
Board member Bernard LaFayette Jr., who spoke on behalf of the members who met in private, said afterward that the 19 votes were sufficient to take the action. The full SCLC board consists of 44 members, but LaFayette said that only 14 need to be present to take action. A proposal can be passed by a majority of that gathered group, he said.
Martin Luther King III, a board member, was present and supported the move to oust the two leaders, LaFayette said.
At the meeting, board member Sylvia Tucker was selected as the new chairwoman, he said.
LaFayette said the members felt compelled to oust the chairman and treasurer because of an internal investigation into their management of funds.
“The turmoil comes when we allow people of ill will to take power,” LaFayette said. “There comes a time when people must take a stand.”
He said that the internal investigation, which is still ongoing, found that Trammell and Gordon were responsible for at least $400,000 in expenses that were not accounted for nor approved by the board.
Neither Trammell nor Gordon attended the meeting nor could be reached for comment Saturday, but they discredited the meeting in a prepared statement, calling it an attempted coup. The letter was supported by nine officers of the organization, according to the statement.
“The hastily called gathering clearly violates SCLC’s Constitution and By-Laws and is therefore unethical as well as illegal,” read the statement, which declared that any action taken at the meeting was invalid. “We will not be arbitrarily dismissed.”