A litigation team from Ballard Spahr, led by David H. Pittinsky and Ethan Cohen, scored a decisive victory for the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM) President, Sacramento Mayor and former NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson, yesterday when the Superior Court of Fulton County ruled that Mayor Johnson, and therefore the officers of the NCBM, were legitimately elected in May 2013. Ballard Spahr represented Mayor Johnson and the NCBM leadership pro bono in this matter.
The ruling also stated that Mayor Johnson had the authority to form a special task force and authorize an audit to determine the legal, operational, and financial status of the NCBM. The ruling rejected the arguments of terminated Executive Director Vanessa Williams and past NCBM member Robert Bowser, who had challenged the election of Mayor Johnson as President of the NCBM. The ruling also invalidated all actions taken by Ms. Williams and Mr. Bowser since Mayor Johnson’s election, including their invalid attempt to terminate him.
“It was our privilege to help Mayor Johnson in his fight to help the conference get its financial house in order,” Mr. Pittinsky said. “The charges leveled against Mayor Johnson were an attempt to distract attention from serious issues at the NCBM and prevent an investigation into Ms. Williams’ tenure as Executive Director.”
Mayor Johnson and the new leadership at the NCBM had created a special task force and ordered an audit when it was discovered that the 40-year-old organization had lost its 501(c)(3) tax status and accrued more than $1.0 million in debt to the IRS and others. Ms. Williams was terminated by the board on September 6, 2013, due to her failure to fulfill core duties and responsibilities of the Executive Director of NCBM and a forensic auditor’s finding that she had used the bank accounts of NCBM and the NCBM Title Company without board approval for personal expenditures totaling at least $623,000.
“We are gratified that the court has validated the election of our leadership and vindicated our efforts to take the necessary steps to restore accountability and fiscal integrity to this venerable and critical organization,” Mayor Johnson said. “Now we can move forward by taking the actions that will address any outstanding problems we have in order to ensure that the NCBM will benefit current and future mayors and their constituents.”