ATLANTA - A rift in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s board of directors was caused by manipulative workers and board members at the civil rights organization, the group’s compliance officer testified Monday.
The Rev. Wilbert Shanklin told a Fulton County Superior Court judge that he tried to stop the flow of information between the staff and board members because it was creating chaos in the once-powerful organization co-founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I began to see we were being manipulated by staff,” said Shanklin, a minister from Dayton, Ohio. “And I wanted to stop board members from sharing things with staff that they shouldn’t have and to stop staff who were able to sway board members to things that were not in their own best interest.”
His testimony is part of the ongoing legal battle over who should run the SCLC. The hearing in the civil lawsuit began June 2 and resumed Monday after a two-week hiatus.
Dueling SCLC factions split last fall over allegations of financial mismanagement by the embattled chairman and treasurer, who have refused to step aside pending federal and local investigations. Divided allegiances have created the perception of two SCLCs, conducting the organization’s business independently of one another.
Attorney Charles Mathis, who represents the plaintiffs in the civil case, said Shanklin, a defendant, is upset that he lost control of the board and didn’t want the board to oust chairman Raleigh Trammell, who is also from Dayton.
“A board of directors of a corporation has the power and the right to decide and manage the corporation and that’s what the board here did,” Mathis said during a break in the hearing.
In earlier testimony, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told the judge that he’s satisfied with the documents that the SCLC has handed over to his office under a subpoena. He said the organization has complied with his requests entirely and met all deadlines he set.
Howard was called to testify in the civil case because he asked a grand jury to review SCLC records after board members ousted Trammell and treasurer Spiver Gordon and accused them of financial mismanagement. The grand jury’s investigation is ongoing.
The lawsuit is being bankrolled mostly by donations from board members and others because the SCLC’s assets and bank accounts have been frozen until the issue of who controls the organization is settled, board member Art Rocker testified. So far, the plaintiffs have raised $30,000 to pay for expenses outside attorney fees, he said.
It is unknown how much money the defendants have.
Howard and Rocker are on a long list of witness who have testified in the hearing, which has effectively turned into a bench trial in front of Judge Alford Dempsey Jr. with hours of testimony and growing stacks of evidence.
Attorneys expect the hearing to last at least until Friday.