NAACP Greater Bridgeport Branch President Carolyn Vermon
BRIDGEPORT -- Twenty minutes into the state NAACP chapter's takeover Monday of the civil rights organization's Bridgeport branch -- meant to bring order back to a severely divided branch -- one of the local members was arrested on an outstanding warrant.
Minutes after expressing hope that intervention by the state chapter would put the local group back on track, Wayne Winston was taken into custody by a state marshal and city sheriff. "We've been trying to get in touch with you for two years," State Marshal Charles Valentino told Winston outside the meeting hall at the Messiah Baptist Church. "You've been dodging us."
Leaving the meeting to rush to Winston's defense, Carolyn Nah, former president of the local branch, accused the current president, Carolyn Vermont, of turning him in. "They said somebody told them he was here," Nah said.
The incident comes just three months after Vermont phoned Police Chief Joseph Gaudett during a meeting to charge Winston with harassment. She claimed he was being disruptive and talking over her.
The rift between Vermont and Winston provides a window into how the state takeover came to be. The two are on opposing sides of a larger battle brewing within the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People over control of financial statements and membership information.
Winston and other members say Vermont has failed to provide annual reports or regular updates on the funds raised by the organization, accusations she says are not true.
Their discontent with her presidency came to a head in November when four of the organization's executive committee members sent a letter on NAACP letterhead to People's United Bank, removing Vermont and treasurer Errol Earle from the account. The board members made first vice president Keith Williams the assigner instead.
But both moves were against the NAACP bylaws, according to letters sent from the national NAACP office to the four individuals.
"This action is taken to protect the NAACP from the danger of irreparable harm," Jealous wrote.
The following month Vermont was notified of plans for the state branch to take over. Scot X. Esdaile, state NAACP president, declined to comment Monday, as did a spokesman for the national NAACP.
Members, including Bridgeport Lt. Dave Daniels, on Monday night expressed optimism about the state's plans to take over the decision making and eventually carry out elections of new executive officers.
"I'm hoping things will get better," said Wanda Simmons. "A new start."
"I wish it never came to this, but this is where we are," added local member Joanne Butler. "I'm hoping order will be maintained and we can get through this process. Let's get goals. Let's stop the infighting and let's help the community."