Bridgeport Board of Education member Bobby Simmons has been suspended as a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, accused of an unauthorized attempt to remove the names of two officers as signatories of the local Bridgeport branch account at People’s United Bank, according to a letter issued by Benjamin Todd Jealous, the national president of the civil rights organization. Simmons is a member of the executive committee of the local Bridgeport chapter. Carolyn Vermont, president of Greater Bridgeport NAACP, is one of the officers whose name Simmons is accused of trying to remove as a bank signatory in violation of rules. The other is Errol Earle, the treasurer.
Vermont, in an email to OIB wrote. “As far as any questions, I cannot speak on this issue while an investigation is pending that could result in criminal charges. National NAACP Member & CT State Conference President Scot X. Esdaile is the individual authorized to speak on this issue.” Esdaile, reached by OIB, had no comment.
Simmons, a certified public accountant, is a Democratic member of the school board aligned with three members of the Connecticut Working Families Party largely opposing the initiatives of Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas. He’s the senior member of the school board. He issued a statement to OIB denying the accusations. Three officers of the local NAACP branch, Keith Williams, Jeff Baldwin and Delores Crawford-Carey, also were suspended as members of the national organization for signing and issuing the unauthorized letter to People’s United Bank, according to Jealous.
In a letter dated February 25 and addressed to Simmons, Jealous writes: “… please be advised that your membership is hereby suspended effective as the date of this letter … This action is taken to protect the NAACP from the danger of irreparable harm for the following:
1. Prepared unauthorized letter bearing your signature on NAACP letterhead and logo to the Peoples Bank removing the names of the President and Treasurer as signatures of the Branch bank account on November 18, 2012.”
The letter continues Simmons “misrepresented NAACP policy … only the National Board of Directors has authority to remove an officer of a unit.”
The letter adds Simmons “Misrepresented NAACP policy … the Treasurer is responsible for receiving and dispersing all monies and the President is a signatory on the checking account.”
Jealous’ letter also directed Simmons from “acting or holding yourself out as a member/officer of the NAACP. All NAACP property and records in your possession are to be returned to the Greater Bridgeport Branch office within seven calendar days from the date of this letter.”
OIB received a copy of Jealous’ letter independent of Vermont.
A power struggle has split the ranks of the local NAACP branch–with charges and counter charges–between an opposition force led by Wayne Winston and Vermont. Winston failed to unseat Vermont in the last branch election in 2010. Simmons is aligned with the Winston faction of the branch. Vermont has accused Winston of spreading lies about business conduct of the local branch. In January Vermont called city police accusing Winston of harassment and disrupting a meeting.
Simmons has appealed the decision to suspend his membership before a hearing of the NAACP national Board of Directors. Simmons issued this statement to OIB:
This is to inform you that a member of the Bridgeport NAACP Chapter’s Executive Committee came by my office last November and requested that I sign this letter. I did not prepare and/or draft the letter.
I was told that the only purpose of the letter was to obtain the financial records of the Bridgeport NAACP Chapter. I know for a fact that for over two (2) years there has been an ongoing effort by the Bridgeport NAACP Chapter’s Executive Committee to obtain bank statements and supporting financial records involving cash receipts and disbursements. However, the Branch’s president, Carolyn Vermont and the so~called treasurer have consistently refused to release these records. Over a year ago, the Bridgeport NAACP’s Executive Committee met with the State (CT) president, Scott X. Esdaile and this individual assured the Bridgeport NAACP Chapter’s Executive Committee that the financial records and supporting financial documentation (cash receipts-donors, cash disbursements~invoices) would be furnished and made available to the executive committee.
No such records have been provided.
It is also important to note that the Bridgeport NAACP Chapter’s General Membership and the Executive Committee requested a financial audit; however, Carolyn Vermont has refused to provide the records for the audit.
Again, my only reason for signing the letter was for the purpose of assisting the Branch in obtaining the financial records. I have absolutely no regrets in signing the letter.
Certainly, Scott X. Esdaile and Carolyn Vermont should release the financial records and not spend their time pursuing ridiculous efforts to suspend honest and sincere NAACP members.
In response to Simmons, Vermont told OIB, ”The treasurer has followed all the bylaws and has turned over all the records to the secretary, as required by the NAACP constitution and bylaws. As president, I don’t handle any of the finances and documents.”
Vermont says that Simmons has attended only four meetings of the NAACP branch in the past two years. She says the local branch conducts two meetings per month.