Two Local SCLC Board Members Voice Support of Trammell Amid Accusations

Lynn Hulsey and Tom Beyerlein, Dayton Daily News, January 14, 2010

The Rev. Raleigh Trammell said on Thursday, Jan. 14, that he has not misappropriated money.

“All of the allegations that have no merit are by people who have no authority and are really feeding the media with a lot of allegations with absolutely no foundation at all,” said Trammell, who is under investigation by the national Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Trammell is board chairman of the civil rights group’s Dayton chapter and executive director of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.

Both groups receive taxpayer money, including federal stimulus funds, for programs to help the needy.

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Sexual harassment complaint filed

He declined comment on a sexual harassment and retaliation complaint filed in November with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission by longtime local SCLC employee DaMisha Douglas of Dayton.

Douglas said Trammell “misused the government funds” for “personal gain,” according to a memo she wrote in August and obtained by the Dayton Daily News. She also accused Trammell of inappropriate sexual activity with her and making sexual advances toward her 15-year-old daughter.

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Two Dayton chapter SCLC board members said they support Trammell.

“I put no credence, no credence, in the charges against Rev. Trammell,” said board member Margaret Peters, a local historian and author. “I am appalled that even four members of the SCLC who make such charges against a man who has fought for civil rights for generations.”

Asked if the local board plans to discuss the matter, Peters said, “We have more important things to do than to deal with these baseless accusations.” {snip}

Peters said the dismissals of Trammell and national treasurer Spiver Gordon have no validity because the full board of directors didn’t vote on them, as required.

She also said the timing of the allegations is horrible, coming just before the weekend-long celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. King helped establish the SCLC in 1957.

“I’m sure there’s been a lot of community whispering, but Rev. Trammell has been a long-standing civil rights leader here and his work speaks for itself,” said Don Black, a local SCLC board member, owner of the Dayton Weekly News and a public relations consultant who has been retained by Trammell to help deal with the controversy.

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The Southern Christian Leadership Conference officials dismissed last month may have diverted at least $569,000 of the civil rights group’s money to bank accounts they controlled, according to the new board chairwoman and documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The SCLC’s former chairman, Rev. Raleigh Trammell, and former treasurer Spiver Gordon have been asked by the group’s board of directors to explain the expenditures by Friday.

Board member Art Rocker said the questionable expenditures by Trammell, in Dayton, Ohio, and Gordon, in Eutaw, Ala., could exceed the $569,000 already in question. There are at least two SCLC bank accounts set up by Gordon that the organization cannot access.

“We don’t know how much money has [gone] through there,” Rocker said.

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The two men were dismissed Dec. 21 for “possible mismanagement” of organizational funds, according to news accounts and documents given to the AJC. Reports published two days later quoted Trammell as saying he had not been dismissed but had stepped aside for the duration of the investigation. Gordon has not commented publicly.

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Memos and transcripts obtained by the AJC provide details of spending that led to the internal investigation.

The records–produced by several SCLC officials– indicate the men wrote checks to themselves, paid for funeral expenses and credit card and insurance bills, and sent money to their individual chapters and their special projects. None of those expenditures had board approval, Rocker said.

Records show, for example, that between March 2006 and last November, Gordon claimed reimbursements totaling $236,739 for a prison ministry that is run out of the SCLC’s Eutaw, Ala., office, which Gordon heads. Another $162,927 was paid directly to the Eutaw chapter.

The Jan. 5 memo asked both men to describe the purpose of the prison ministry because other board members were unfamiliar with it. The memo noted that Trammell had approved the expenditures to the prison ministry.

Gaines, in the memo, also questioned checks totaling $24,450 that were endorsed over to Trammell.

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“There’s still hundreds of thousands of dollars missing from the SCLC that we have to get control of,” board member Rocker told the AJC.

In a Dec. 15 letter to the board, chairwoman Tucker [acting chairwoman Sylvia Tucker] wrote that “more than $569,000 may have been diverted from the national organization to a SCLC board account managed and controlled by Rev. Raleigh Trammell and Mr. Spiver Gordon. The organization now faces unknown penalties and liabilities with the Internal Revenue Service because of these actions.”

In addition to the financial investigation, the board also is discussing its response to a sexual harassment claim brought against Trammell. Tucker said that allegation by a woman who works in the Dayton office was also a reason for removing Trammell last month.

The board and the woman’s attorney met for several hours Wednesday to discuss her charges, but there was no resolution, Rocker told the AJC. Tucker said the woman, DaMisha Douglas, is still on the SCLC payroll.

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In subsequent letters to the SCLC, she wrote that Trammell also made improper advances toward her 15-year-old daughter.

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