By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Renee Baskerville’s bid for president of the Montclair NAACP has been pulled by the National NAACP, which has taken over the local election due to infighting.
On Jan. 12, Baskerville wrote to national officials requesting that her name not be placed on the ballot, pending a response from the national organization’s counsel concerning her request to investigate the election process and the national organization’s takeover of the election.
She also asked that the election — scheduled for Friday, Jan. 15 — be postponed until the national general counsel responded to her request for a legal opinion.
The next day, Quincy Bates, director of governance and engagement, sent an email out to the local branch that the election would go on as planned, but with the voting taking place over three days from Friday at 9 a.m. through Sunday, 9 p.m. He also stated that at Baskerville’s request she had been removed from the ballot.
The national NAACP is taking over the Montclair NAACP’s first contested election in nearly a decade, after a series of back-and-forth disputes about when petitions should be collected and who should be eligible to run.
Bates did not answer an email requesting to know if counsel investigated.
In October, former councilwoman and mayoral candidate Baskerville was nominated to run against Al Pelham, president since 2012.
On Dec. 14, Bates wrote to the Montclair NAACP that the national organization would take over the local election “and institute corrective action.”
Bates cited bylaws that give the national office authority to intervene at any time during the three-month period leading up to a branch election to “suspend the process and institute corrective action to ensure that the rights of all members are protected.”
In addition to Baskerville for president, the nominating committee chair nominated Phaedra Ruddock-Dunn for first vice president, James Harris as second vice president, Judith Mills as third vice president, June Raegner as secretary and Lois Donegan as treasurer.
Al Pelham presented his petition that night, and the election committee voted to extend the deadline for another 24 hours to allow Shakira Pelham to get her petition in, according to meeting minutes. Shakira Pelham is Al Pelham’s niece.
The current officers are Pelham, president; Harris, first vice president; Beverly A. Bussey, second vice president; Shakira Pelham, secretary; Raegner, assistant secretary, and Donegan, treasurer.
However, on Nov. 18, Obdulia Miranda-Woodley, Ruddock-Dunn, Baskerville, Harris, Raegner and William Scott wrote to the national office requesting that both Pelhams’ petitions be rejected and that the election be uncontested.
“Please read the following issue and let us know if the Montclair branch of the NAACP election should proceed as an uncontested election, as the current president and secretary did not properly present their petitions as required in the bylaws. We disagree with how the president and [secretary], the election committee chair, interpret the bylaws,” they wrote, referring to the 24-hour grace period given to get the petitions in.
Baskerville however said she never sought to have the election uncontested and the only question the group raised was over the 24-hour extension granted to Shakira Pelham. She also contends she was not aware of the email sent to the national organization.
On Nov 20, the national organization responded that Al Pelham’s petition for candidacy would be accepted, but rejected Shakira Pelham’s later-arriving petition.
The national organization will also allow for members who were in good standing 30 days before the election to vote, and expanded the time period for potential candidates to get petitions in to Jan. 12.
Four more candidates submitted their petitions: Roger Terry for first vice president, Kevin Pierre for second vice president, Rosita Dotson for third vice president and Cary Chevat for secretary.
Chevat told Montclair Local that Shakira Pelham has decided not to run.
The local branch has approximately 300 members who will receive their ballots vis email on Friday, Jan. 15.