The Montgomery County NAACP, angered by County Council member Michael Gudis' role in the appointment of John P. Hewitt to the county Planning Board, has asked Gudis to resign as chairman of a county task force designed to promote better understanding between races and cultures.
Gudis has been criticized by the local NAACP branch for failing to conduct a private interview with Hewitt, as other council members did, and for first abstaining and then casting the deciding vote on the confirmation last month.
Hewitt, who was appointed by County Executive Sidney Kramer, was opposed by the NAACP because he was the parks director while segregated facilities existed at a parks maintenance yard in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Hewitt repeatedly denied knowledge of the segregated facilities. A council-ordered investigation found that while there were separate lounge and lunchroom facilities for black and white workers at the Meadowbrook Yard in Chevy Chase, there was no evidence that Hewitt was aware of or condoned the segregation.
In what the NAACP referred to in a press statement as "an unusual action," the organization last week approved a resolution calling for Gudis to resign his chairmanship of the county's Sensitivity Awareness Symposium Day, an annual program of activities to advance racial and cultural harmony.
In an interview this week, Gudis said he will not resign his position on the task force and called the NAACP action "unfortunate."
The Sensitivity Awareness Day Task Force, founded in 1982 after legislation introduced by Gudis, creates and coordinates programs for the annual event that are intended to promote awareness about bigotry and develop more racial, religious and cultural sensitivity among county residents. Each year schools, government agencies and some businesses set aside time on Sensitivity Awareness Day to discuss these issues.
Last year, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments joined in coordinating a regional program for SAS Day, which this year is scheduled for Nov. 19. Gudis is widely credited by colleagues, as well as by the NAACP, for taking the lead in expanding SAS Day activities. In 1985, he called on the county to grant two hours of administrative leave to all county employes wishing to attend the SAS program.
At the council meeting -- a special session called to vote on Hewitt's appointment -- Gudis originally abstained from voting. But the vote of the other six members was tied and when told by the council legal staff that an abstention would be translated as a vote to confirm, Gudis voted to appoint Hewitt to the $12,600-a-year post.
In its call for Gudis to leave the post, NAACP officials say they are responding to what they believe were misleading statements made by the three-term council member during the the early stages of the Hewitt appointment. Both Montgomery NAACP President Roscoe R. Nix and Vice President Hanley J. Norment say that Gudis told them he planned to oppose Hewitt. Nix and Norment also contend that Gudis told them that he "would take the lead" in making a decision on Hewitt from Leggett, the council's only black member.
Nix said that Gudis misrepresented his stance on the Hewitt appointment by first indicating he would oppose it, "and finally trying to abstain and hide his position and then vote with Mr. Hewitt . . . . We were lied to like we were fools."
Gudis denies having told NAACP officials that his vote was tied to that of Leggett and denies assuring the NAACP that he would oppose Hewitt.
"I never said I would vote against Hewitt unless there was real evidence that he knew" about the segregated facilities, Gudis said. "After the first investigation by the county attorney I told Mr. Nix that I was going to vote for Hewitt."
Gudis said he had been prepared to vote for Hewitt but abstained after Leggett opposed him. That vote made Gudis suspect "there must be something that I don't know," he said. "Abstaining I thought, would delay long enough to find out."
He said he did not interview Hewitt because he was relying on the council investigation.
Norment said the NAACP plans to study the voting record of Gudis to determine whether the council member "tends to vote when there is already a heavy majority. We just think right now he is someone who can't take a stand. People should know about that."
Gudis, who issued a press release this week stating his commitment to civil rights, said in an interview, "I don't know what they hope to accomplish . . . . I just hope the wounds are healed."