The NAACP lost more than 25 percent of its paid membership last year, has changed top financial officials five times in four years and has developed a "disturbing reputation for nonpayment of bills," according to a report by its embattled chairman, Margaret Bush Wilson.
In the report, to be presented to board members at a critical meeting Saturday, Wilson blames the misfortunes of the NAACP on executive director Benjamin L. Hooks, who is characterized as a charismatic leader but ineffective administrator.
The 33-page document does not call for the ouster of Hooks, nor does it accuse him of any criminal or personal wrongdoing. It also draws no differences in philosophy between Wilson and Hooks, whose contract as executive director expires in August.
It does assert, however, that the ability to lead and the ability to manage are two distinct qualities, and argues that the board "cannot forever expect our membership to ride a crest of emotionalism stirred at our annual convention." Advance copies of the report have been mailed to board members.
The report appears to be Wilson's final, desperate salvo in an ongoing feud with Hooks. It comes just one month before the NAACP's 74th annual convention, six months before Wilson must stand for reelection as an at-large board member and seven months before the annual election for board chairman.
Hooks' supporters have said that there will be severe political fallout for Wilson among the organization's members. They contend that many of the association's problems are rooted in her efforts to influence day-to-day operations unduly.
On May 18, following a heated confrontation at an executive committee meeting in Chicago, Wilson unilaterally suspended Hooks, accusing him of insubordination, improper conduct and non-cooperation. Eight days later, in the face of overwhelming opposition from board members, she reinstated him.
That did not prevent 51 members of the 64-person board from defying her directive and convening a meeting two days later at which they repudiated the suspension, severely curbed her powers and called on the 64-year-old St. Louis lawyer to step down from a post she has held since 1975.
Wilson has said that she will not make a decision on that request until she can explain her actions to the board. She did not attend the May 28 meeting at which her resignation was asked.
The report said that based on figures provided by Hooks earlier this year, the organization's regular membership fell from 333,352 in 1981 to 243,581 in 1982. This does not include an estimated 100,000 life members.
It also reported that in the last four years, there have been three controllers, two chief accountants, two public relations directors, two program directors and two executive directors, with no one now holding either of the last two positions.
It acknowledged that some of the decline in membership could be attributed to an increase in the annual membership fee from $5 to $10.
But it also complained that the organization's effectiveness is being hurt by Hooks' operating style in which most decision-making power has been concentrated in the hands of Hooks; his top aides, Jerry Guess and Howard Henderson, and his wife, Frances, a volunteer NAACP worker.
"It is because of the danger inherent in concentration of power, authority and responsibility that all experts on . . . administration warn against such organizational patterns," the report said.
Hooks could not be reached tonight for comment. In Chicago, his wife and Henderson declined comment. Guess, who said he had not seen the report, said, "I would like to think that the person who gave you that information was mistaken."