ATLANTA (AP)-Prosecutors in Georgia have found no proof that two ousted board members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference stole more than $560,000 from the landmark civil rights organization, according to a draft report.
The report on the 18-month-long investigation into the allegations was obtained by The Associated Press. Former chairman Raleigh Trammell and ex-treasurer Spiver Gordon are among several ousted board members calling on Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard to release the findings to the public.
“To prove any criminal activity in this case, the investigation would have to show that the funds were clearly used for personal benefit, and not for the benefit of the SCLC,” the report says. “The investigation showed that the funds were actually used for approved programs and approved travel reimbursements.”
In a letter dated Sunday to their civil attorney, six former board members accuse Howard of stalling for six months and having “a politically-motivated agenda” in not releasing the findings earlier. A draft version of the report, dated last May, was provided to Thelma Wyatt Moore, a former judge who represented the board members in a civil case arising from allegations of financial mismanagement.
The six former board members wrote Howard’s office on Wednesday asking his office to release the report.
“We simply want your office to release your aforementioned findings, which you have had for many months now, and allow us to move on with our lives and ministries,” the letter says.
A voicemail message seeking comment from the district attorney’s office was not immediately returned. SCLC spokesman Maynard Eaton was not aware of the report and could not immediately respond to its findings.
Howard’s office was asked in January 2010 by the SCLC’s general counsel to investigate suspected unauthorized expenditures of more than $560,000 by Trammell of Dayton, Ohio, and Gordon of Eutaw, Ala. According to the report, some board members equated the expenditures to theft.
“We have known all along that the allegations that were lodged in SCLC that caused the deep divide in the organization were felonious and intentionally placed to divide and conquer the organization,” said Markel Hutchins, who was removed as interim president of SCLC during a legal fight stemming from the charges.
Hutchins said the report should be released to restore the damaged reputations of the organization and the maligned members.
“It will hopefully send a message to the funders of SCLC’s work that there was no financial mismanagement and that SCLC has been a good steward of the resources that have been placed with the organization,” Hutchins said.
The allegations led to a deep split in the organization, as well as the ouster of Trammell, Gordon and several other board members in April 2010, and a protracted legal battle in civil court. The dispute split longtime colleagues — some with friendships dating back to the civil rights era — and exposed severe gaps in the organization’s governance.
The allegations eventually drove off the Rev. Bernice King, who was poised to take the helm of the organization co-founded by her father, but declined to assume office amid the infighting. King’s nephew, Isaac Newton Farris, recently became president.