The reelection of Roy Innis as national leader of the Congress of Racial Equality took place at a convention that was a "complete fraud," CORE founder James Farmer charged yesterday.
As a result, Farmer and three former CORE officials said, Innis' reelection is invalid and his status as leader of the 36-year-old organization, once a major force in civil rights battles, is in serious jeopardy.
The charge came four days after Innis announced that he had been "elected as national chairman and reelected as national director" of the group at a convention earlier this month in Pittstown, N.J.
Innis said he had no opponents at the meeting, where he was elected "in a formal vote of the delegates by an overwhelming margin.
"That meeting, I regret to say, was a complete fraud," charged Farmer, also a former national director of CORE.
"For the conclusions of that session to be characterized as offical decisions of national CORE is an exercise in cynicism," Farmer said.
Innis has said that the convention, held Sept. 8-10, was composed of duly elected delegates from CORE chapters around the nation. But he has steadfastly refused - "as a matter of CORE policy" - to say how many chapters the organization has or how many delegates attended the Pittstown meeting. All of the convention sessions were closed to the press.
Farmer said "a maximum of 72 persons, including observers hand-picked by the national director, were in attendance" at the convention. He said he got the figure from "observers."
Farmer said Innis invited him to attend the meeting a week before it was held. But he said he sent Innis a Mailgram saying that he would not attend a convection "that is clearly a sham."
Joseph Dixon, a former Maryland state chairman and Northeast regional chairman of CORE, told reporters yesterday that he attended the New Jersey meeting as an "abserver."
He said that only 64 to 72 persons were at the meeting, "and at least 20 of them were from New York," where CORE has its headquarters.
"It was a captured convection . . . People did only what Innis wanted them to," Dixon said.
Innis said yesterday that Dixon "is a liar, if he said those things."
Two other ex-CORE officials, the Rev. W. T. Lewis, former southern regional chairman, and Waverly Yates, former eastern regional chairman, joined Farmer and Dixon yesterday in repeating a call for a "full and open" CORE convention.
They said they expect to hold such a convention here during the Thanksgiving weekend.
Innis has turned a once-proud organization into a "tragedy," one that has come under repeated investigations for alleged fund-raising abuses and other "serious infractions," Farmer said.
"This tragedy can only be reversed by Mr. Innis' resignation or his removal," Farmer declared.