Friday, December 26–Bays Program Claims NAACP Confused Over Plans

SNOW HILL – A new Diversity Advisory Committee for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) has the local chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) upset over perceived attempts to do away with current minority outreach initiative.

A letter issued by the Worcester County NAACP, written by chapter President Ed Lee, threatens to take the matter to the Maryland Attorney General’s office.

The letter contends that the Diversity Advisory Committee was voted in to replace MCBP’s minority outreach strategy and that it was voted in under questionable circumstances. The document also contends that MCBP met with the NAACP in the summer and agreed to look into some concerns of the local NAACP, which has yet to hear any results.

MCBP Director Dave Wilson said that Lee, who wrote and distributed the letter of protest, is mistaken about the actions taken at the policy committee meeting.

The new Diversity Advisory Committee will in no way replace the current minority outreach strategy, rather adding to MCBP’s efforts to add a more diverse population to environmental stewardship in Worcester County, Wilson said.

“This is part of it. It has nothing to do with replacing it,” said Wilson. “This is another way to reach the minority community.”

The Worcester County NAACP asked the MCBP policy committee earlier this month, at the annual policy committee meeting, to create the Diversity Action Committee. The policy committee agreed.        

“Six of 11 members have to be minorities but it’ll be more than that I guarantee you,” said Wilson.

Lee expressed concern in the letter over the committee’s decision-making process.

“I am troubled that in an unprecedented move the MCB Policy Committee changed its voting procedures from reaching decisions by consensus…changing the voting rules when it comes to decision making for the African-American and minority community is more than questionable, it is unacceptable,” he wrote.

Again, Lee is mistaken, according to Wilson. The policy committee reached consensus, as is its practice, on creating the Diversity Action Committee, Wilson said.

However, the Worcester County Commissioners disagreed over whether the chair of the new committee should be given an automatic seat on the Policy Committee. A vote was taken on that issue because consensus had not been reached.

“We thought there should be a minority member on the Policy Committee because there’s not, and that’s not right,” Wilson said.

That is not the end of Lee’s concerns. In August, Lee and other NAACP representatives met with Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin, chair of the MCBP policy committee, and were promised a response on three requests: an outside evaluation of the minority outreach strategy; the addition of a permanent seat for the NAACP on the policy committee; and for NAACP review of potential Board members who are “persons of color”.

According to the letter, the NAACP has not heard back on those requests.

“We are left in the unfortunate position of wondering whether what appears to be your decision not to respond to agreed concerns during our meeting, means that progress is not being made in closing the minority involvement gap as it relates to policy and decision making in the Maryland Coastal Bays Program,” said Lee.

Wilson said there was not an accord that all those requests would be pursued.

“We did not agree we would do all those things,” said Wilson. “We didn’t agree to have a member of our board vetted by the NAACP. I’m not sure why we would do that.”

It was decided to add a member of the state NAACP on the policy committee, Wilson added.

Despite these actions, adding a new advisory committee and seating one member on the policy committee, as well as offering a seat on the policy committee to the state NAACP, Lee was not satisfied.

“It is our belief that the African-American and minority community for far too long have not been consulted and informed regarding issues that directly impact their lives, their children and the community as a whole…The Worcester NAACP would be remiss if it did not act to halt these discriminatory and exclusionary practices,” wrote Lee.

The local NAACP said it would ask the Maryland State Conference NAACP make a formal request for intervention by the Maryland Attorney General.

“Any action taken to install the proposed Minority Advisory Committee will only exacerbate and complicate matters… experimenting with our children, on the job training and creating programs to pay staff salaries is not Minority… Involvement according to the NAACP strategy