John Gaskin III will get his due process.
That bit of serendipity is apparent in the penultimate paragraph of a letter he received from national NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson on Thursday.
The letter suspends Gaskin as president of the St. Louis County Branch of the NAACP “pending further action by the NAACP Board of Directors.”
Johnson said he suspended Gaskin for his decision to offer the county NAACP’s support for legislation pending in the Missouri Legislature which would weaken Title IX protections for women on college campuses, and also for a conflict of interest in taking a paid consulting job from the nonprofit group Better Together or its campaign arm while asking fellow NAACP members to endorse the measure which could merge the city and the county.
Several black elected officials called for Gaskin’s resignation after the Post-Dispatch reported that Gaskin announced support for the ballot initiative at a news conference before letting both the NAACP and the public know that he was being paid by the sponsors of the proposal.
“Given the importance of these issues to the NAACP and the communities we represent, I have concluded that the conduct described above is inimical to the best interest of the Association and presents a danger of irreparable harm to the Association and the St. Louis County Branch,” Johnson wrote. “You are directed to cease and desist immediately from holding yourself out as President of the St. Louis County Branch of the NAACP.”
The Post-Dispatch obtained the letter from Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel.
Gaskin can provide a written response to the allegations and seek a hearing, under the NAACP bylaws, the letter says.
“Should you timely request a hearing regarding this matter,” Johnson wrote Gaskin, “one will be provided as outlined in article X of the NAACP Bylaws ...”
In a text, Gaskin lamented that Chapel shared Johnson’s letter with a reporter, calling it an “internal NAACP matter. … I will have more to share next week following conversations with the leadership of my Branch.”
Gaskin found himself crossways with state and national NAACP leadership in March when he announced support for the bill that university leaders and women’s advocates say will gut Title IX protections. The bill was written by lobbyist Richard McIntosh of St. Louis, and the effort to hire 29 lobbyists and other political operatives was funded at least in part through a dark-money committee by St. Louis billionaire David Steward, whose company, World Wide Technology, McIntosh lobbies for.
Supporters of the bill, including Gaskin, decried what they called the lack of “due process” for men accused of Title IX offenses, such as sexual assault or harassment, on campuses, and claimed that the rules were disproportionately affecting black men.
They produced no evidence to back their claims, and both Chapel and Johnson opposed the bill, saying it goes directly against NAACP positions meant to protect civil rights.
Last week, the Kansas City Star reported that McIntosh wrote the bill after his son had been expelled from Washington University in a Title IX proceeding.
In his letter, Johnson says “it appears” that Gaskin took the position without having received “authorization or ratification” of the branch’s executive committee.
His position on the Better Together proposal — which has been widely opposed by nearly every black elected official in the St. Louis region — received immediate criticism in the African American community. Gentry Trotter, whose mother was a longtime national regional director of the NAACP, called the county branch a “political prostitution ring.”
As an “historian” @tonymess the County can’t split into 2 NAACP units. The current branch has a charter for the entire StL County. I’m sure mom’s ashes are smoldering. She was the Region IV Director. After she retired the County branch become a “political” prostitution ring.— Devil's Advocate (@GentryTrotter) April 19, 2019
Adolphus Pruitt, president of the city branch of the NAACP, allocated some of the blame to the Better Together organizers, whose campaign arm is called Unite STL.
“It’s unfortunate that the folks at Unite STL in their zeal to show support from the African American community would put President Gaskin in such a position, pitting him against African American elected officials in St. Louis County. I hold them responsible for tarnishing the reputation of the NAACP.”
Missouri's NAACP president, Rod Chapel Jr., stands up against 'attack' on Title IX protections; John Gaskin, president of the St. Louis County NAACP supports the legislation.