Why suspended Sacramento NAACP president says she used county funds to pay her own business

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Suspended Sacramento NAACP President Betty Williams says she wasn’t aware she may have broken the terms of a contract with Sacramento County involving its pandemic-era meal kit program.

Williams was suspended in October after the national NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson sent her a letter, accusing her of engaging in possible “financial impropriety.”

Now KCRA 3 Investigates has learned Williams’ former contract with Sacramento County is also facing scrutiny. The county said the Department of Human Assistance has commissioned a fiscal monitoring engagement because of “inconsistencies in invoicing and record keeping.”

In response to a public records request, the county sent KCRA 3 financial statements from over the past two years for its so-called “Dine-In” program. The program paid local restaurants to deliver meal kits to families hardest hit during the pandemic.

KCRA 3 first heard from Williams about the program in 2022. She was furious that the first round of spending didn’t include any African American-owned restaurants. After our story aired, the county confirmed there would be a second round of funding, with most of the money being distributed by the Sacramento NAACP.

In a one-on-one interview with KCRA 3’s Brandi Cummings, Williams said she’s very proud of the program and its impacts.

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“I fought for small minority-owned businesses, focusing on restaurants, to get a second chance to feed the community when they didn’t have that opportunity with the first Dine-In program at the county. And it took me almost a year, fighting, and it was your story that finally brought it to fruition,” Williams told Cummings.

The financial statements from the county reveal that along with a list of restaurants paid with the funding, the Sacramento NAACP also paid 1 Solution thousands of dollars per month. 1 Solution is an outreach company owned by Williams. The documents reveal Williams paid her own business at least $39,000 between 2022 and 2023.

Williams told Cummings she was so eager to get the Dine-In 2 program started that she used money from her own business to help get it off the ground. She said she didn’t think there was anything wrong with paying that business monthly.

“As a civil rights leader, I fought really hard for those restaurants to get an opportunity, so from there, I was so intent on making sure that happened. I put in my own money to make sure that happened,” Williams said.

Williams said her company supplied a separate phone line, payroll, workers’ compensation and other services for the program months before they ever received a check. We asked her how much she spent and she wouldn’t tell us, explaining her attorney advised her not to talk about it.

Under the terms of the contract between the county and the Sacramento NAACP, there is a conflict of interest section, saying: “Contractor and contractor’s officers and employees shall not have a financial interest, or acquire any financial interest, direct or indirect, in any business, property, or source of income which could be financially affected by or otherwise conflict in any manner or degree with the performance of services required under this Contract.”

Williams signed the contract, but during our interview said she didn’t know that section was there and that if she “understood this to be a true conflict” that she would have “pivoted another way.”

Cummings asked Williams why she didn’t wait until the county money started coming in, instead of getting her own company involved.

“Anyone who has worked with a government agency locally or statewide, they know the money doesn’t come in immediately. You have to be fiscally ready to start your programming,” Williams said.

Williams pointed out that she didn’t try to hide that her business was being paid. 1 Solution is listed as “Executive Director” and “Administrative Assistant” on many of the budget statements sent to and approved by the county.

KCRA 3 Investigates looked into how those budget statements are scrutinized by the County. During our investigation in March of 2023, the county told us the Department of Human Assistance was overseeing the distribution of funds. The county said a program planner would make sure all of the contract terms are met and supporting documents are provided before approving reimbursement. Then, the financial management division would review documentation to make sure everything matches up with the contract before checks are issued.

When we followed up Friday, Sacramento County said in a statement:

“It is standard practice for the County to ensure that each subcontractor listed has a legitimate, good standing business license. However, it is the responsibility of the contractor to ensure its subcontractor choices meet the needs of the program requirements and have ethical business practices.”

The county also said staffers were not aware that the subcontractors NAACP contracted with posed a “conflict of interest as outlined both by the County contract terms and the NAACP bylaws.”

Click here to read the full article in KCRA

Sacramento NAACP president, 3 officials suspended amid financial misconduct investigation

Betty Williams, the longtime advocate and influential leader of the Greater Sacramento NAACP, has been suspended by the national civil rights organization on allegations of financial impropriety as the branch’s president.

Word came Friday afternoon in a fiery rebuke of the charges from members of the Sacramento chapter expressing outrage at Williams’ apparent ouster, calling the decision politically motivated just as members gather for this weekend’s NAACP state convention in Burlingame.

In addition to Williams, three present and past branch officers — a treasurer, past treasurer and second vice president — also received suspension letters from the NAACP’s national leadership days before elections were to be held at the state meeting, a former branch vice president told The Sacramento Bee.

“Shame on the national and state office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — allegations without an investigation,” a Friday statement in support of Williams read. “Allegations of improper use of funds (are) just that, an allegation that has not been grounded in truth.”

On the day she was suspended, Williams appeared with family members at an NAACP-organized rally for Kaylin Footman, a Sacramento teacher who was arrested during a mental health crisis.

RALLY PLANNED IN SUPPORT OF WILLIAMS

The statement continued, saying that without an investigation, the charges could “ruin” Williams’ reputation and that of the Sacramento branch. Williams, the longest-serving president in the history of the Sacramento NAACP chapter, is long recognized as a statewide champion for civil rights.

She was not immediately available for comment. Williams’ supporters planned a noon rally Saturday outside the Marriott Hotel convention site in the Bay Area city to protest the decision. Aliane Murphy-Hasan, a lifetime member and former vice president of the Sacramento chapter, said state NAACP leaders were concerned with the findings of an annual audit of the local branch, but did not elaborate, deferring to Williams.

Murphy-Hasan said officials at local chapters are typically given advance warning of possible action, and the opportunity to correct or clarify any irregularities in an audit. She said the suspension letter from the national headquarters was the local officials’ only notice.

The suspension letter to Williams from NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson dated Oct. 23 and obtained by The Bee flatly accuses the longtime local leader of using the organization and her position for her own gain. The letter did not specify how Williams allegedly abused her position.

“By engaging in such inappropriate activity and by using the Association’s name and resources for personal benefit, you have engaged in conduct that is inimical to the best interests of the association,” the letter read.

“Action is necessary to prevent or mitigate that harm.” In it, national president Johnson suspended Williams immediately pending an investigation and hearing, saying her membership “presents a danger of harm” to the NAACP and the Sacramento local chapter, barring her from holding any post in the organization. California/Hawaii NAACP State Chapter President Rick Callender, who is also attending the Burlingame convention, told The Bee he had “zero input” in the suspension letter.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

California NAACP wants to remove ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as national anthem

From the San Luis Obispo Tribune: 

When California lawmakers return to the Capitol in January, the state chapter of the NAACP will be seeking their support for a campaign to remove “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem.

The organization last week began circulating among legislative offices two resolutions that passed at its state conference in October: one urging Congress to rescind “one of the most racist, pro-slavery, anti-black songs in the American lexicon” as the national anthem, and another in support of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who launched a protest movement against police brutality among professional athletes by kneeling when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played before games.

“We owe a lot of it to Kaepernick,” California NAACP President Alice Huffman said. “I think all this controversy about the knee will go away once the song is removed.”

The kneeling protests have drawn attention to an infrequently-sung third verse from “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which includes the passage:

Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave

Some interpretations of the lyrics conclude that they celebrate the deaths of black American slaves who joined British troops during the War of 1812 to gain their freedom. Francis Scott Key, who wrote the lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was a slave owner and fierce opponent of abolition who may have sparked the first race riot in Washington, D.C. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Luis Obispo Tribune