Misconduct charges throw Portland NAACP into turmoil
Allegations of misogyny, physical threats and mismanagement of money are roiling the Portland branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The local chapter of the famed civil rights organization abruptly rescheduled a recent executive meeting — stymieing concerned citizens who found the front doors locked when they arrived at the NAACP office on the mezzanine level of the Lloyd Center mall.
At the center of the accusations is the NAACP chapter president, the Rev. E.D. Mondainé. Reached for comment, he strongly denied the charges that he misused funds or mistreated anyone, calling the notion "ludicrous."
"It grieves me to think that we would have the energy to fight with each other, knowing that we have a racist politician in the highest office of the land," he said.
But current and former NAACP members say Mondainé and an assistant spent at least $5,000 during their trip to the society's national convention in Detroit in July, without prior approval of the spending from the chapter's executive committee.
James Posey, who once served as chapter vice president, raised questions about a lack of recordkeeping and the cost of renting the NAACP's marquee office space.
"We have to beg and plead," Posey said, "to see where the money is going."
Public records show fluctuating finances for the local NAACP, though the organization has rebounded from 2015, when it had as little as $6,000 on hand by the end of the year.
The group's total assets were reported at just over $26,000 at the close of 2018, a drop of almost $8,000 year over year.
Mondainé was not paid for leading the nonprofit — work he estimated occupied 12 hours per week of his time, according to 2018 records filed with the state by NAACP Portland Chapter 1120B.
Portland NAACP Treasurer Michael Harper did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did the national leadership of the organization.
It's not the first time a dispute involving local NAACP leadership has spilled out into the open. Before her election as city commissioner, then chapter President Jo Ann Hardesty was accused by a political opponent of embezzlement.
Though she ultimately amended her tax returns, Hardesty's campaign team insisted the money was appropriate compensation for her work. Under her leadership, the NAACP reported nearly $50,000 in revenue in one year alone.
Hardesty did not respond to a request for comment.
As for Mondainé, while his most visible role to many Portlanders may be his frequent speeches at rallies and news conferences, his roots in the community reach far deeper.
The 60-year-old splits his time running Po'Shines cafe and a related youth work force operation, Teach Me To Fish; serving as senior pastor at the Celebration Tabernacle church in the Kenton neighborhood; hosting a live weekly webcast, "Removing the Thorns;" recording musical albums with a gospel, R&B and jazz sound; and, more recently, championing the Portland Clean Energy Fund.
He added to his responsibilities when he took over the NAACP branch in February 2018 — and his supporters suggest the accusations against him are nothing but growing pains for a resurgent group that, after years of dwindling relevance and single-digit attendance, now is said to have 200 members.
"It would be my heartfelt pleasure to make everybody happy," Mondainé said, "but that's not going to happen in this world."
Others, however, disagree.
'I felt harmed'
Rosa Colquitt has broken barriers her entire life, and she isn't stopping now.
She chairs the Black Caucus of the Democratic Party of Oregon, among other Democratic Party duties, is vice chair of the Portland chapter of the National Organization for Women and has lectured in the community, drawing on her decades of experience as an activist and her research doctorate from North Carolina State University.
Colquitt joined the NAACP a few years ago in hopes of increasing membership in Washington County, where she lives. Instead, she says she eventually was sidelined by Mondainé and not allowed to take charge of meetings when protocol dictated she should.
The breaking point, according to Colquitt, was Mondainé's response after she questioned his need to fly first class to NAACP events, rather than purchasing cheaper tickets. Colquitt at the time was serving on the finance committee.
"He became overtly hostile," she said. "I only felt safe when I walked outside that door."
Briefed on the allegations, Mondainé said he was raised by and adored his female family members, including his five sisters, and said some of his biggest heroes are women.
Colquitt said Mondainé may be perfectly comfortable around women — until they assert their own authority.
"He is highly, not slightly, uncomfortable with a woman in a leadership role," said Colquitt, who has resigned her leadership position but remains an active NAACP member.
Mondainé's behavior, she said, illustrates a disconnect between his public and private persona.
"I felt belittled and I felt harmed."
Fight or no fight?
Another set of allegations comes from Albert Lee, a former Portland Community College dean who is mounting a Democratic primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer.
Lee says he was attending a general meeting of the NAACP in late September in order to share concerns regarding the institution's finances and a lack of transparency. The meeting was so disorganized, Lee said, that he ended up calling for Mondainé to resign.
Mondainé pulled him aside, Lee said, but the conversation simmered and Lee said he was asked to leave.
"I said again that I have every right to be there," Lee recalled in an email. "Mondainé looked at the medical boot I was wearing on my right foot and said, 'I see that you have one boot already; don't make me put another boot on you! You know that I can!'"
According to Lee's account, NAACP secretary and Mondainé's close associate Antjuan Tolbert grabbed Lee's phone at one point, but then returned it.
"(I am) shocked and offended by the president's actions toward me," Lee said.
To all who plan on attending tomorrow's Portland NAACP Gala, I ask that you reconsider.— Albert Lee For Congress ðŸŒ¹ (@AlbertLee2020) October 4, 2019
At the last monthly meeting of the NAACP, I asked openly for the president to step down for improper leadership by fiat, questionable & murky accounting, and general incompetence.
In the aftermath of the apparent tussle, Lee tweeted out a call to boycott the Portland NAACP's annual freedom gala fundraiser, held at the DoubleTree Hotel near the Lloyd Center. Those on the guest list included Commissioner Hardesty, Mayor Ted Wheeler, Sen. Ron Wyden and Blumenauer, who became a dues-paying member of the NAACP this summer.
Mondainé says there were no confrontations or threats, but describes Lee's behavior as an improper attempt to hijack the meeting.
"It would be his end goal to get his name in the paper," Mondainé said of Lee. "I think it's a sad commentary on anybody who is running for office."
Mondainé adds that Lee and Posey aren't current members of the NAACP.
Lee wasn't immediately available to confirm his membership status.
Posey, a businessman and former mayoral candidate with a 40-year history in the city, says he helped recruit Mondainé to join the NAACP. Posey later resigned as vice president due to a family health emergency.
Far from being outsiders lobbing criticism, Posey maintains the issues raised by himself and others came from a place of genuine concern.
"We're not haters for the sake of being haters," he said. "We must have some passion for how wrong things have been going."
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