Donald Sterling Controversy Claims Job of L.A. NAACP Chief
Sterling, left, and Jenkins, right, via KTTV/California Friends of the African American Caucus
Leon Jenkins has resigned his position as president of the L.A. chapter of the NAACP, the national office of the organization announced last night.
Jenkins presided over the organization's 2009 bequeathing of an award to disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and, more recently, was prepared to help hand Sterling a lifetime achievement award during the NAACP's 100th anniversary gala downtown. That distinction was promptly revoked by the national office following the release of audio that captured a racist rant by Sterling.
On top of all that, Jenkins has been disbarred by the State Bar of California:
The State Bar noted that, as a judge in Michigan, he was accused of "accepting gifts and favors to influence his conduct on the bench and [of] improper contacts with parties or counsel."
He was removed from the bench in Michigan in 1991, although Jenkins beat two federal cases against him. According to the State Bar of California:
The [Michigan Supreme] Court found that he accepted bribes to dismiss traffic citations, intentionally misstated his address to get a reduction in his auto insurance premiums, solicited an individual for whom he fixed traffic tickets to commit perjury in a federal investigation of Jenkins' conduct, engaged in improper communications with parties and counsel regarding matters coming before him, improperly accepted gifts and favors from litigants and counsel who appeared before him, and signed a writ of habeas corpus to release from custody someone he believed to be a close friend without adequate information about the case.
The State Bar said that Jenkins moved to California in 1990 and focused on "police brutality, personal injury, wrongful death and medical malpractice cases."
He once chaired an NAACP legal committee, the State Bar said.
Subsequent attempts to overturn his 2001 disbarment - Jenkins argued that Michigan required a lower standard of proof than California would have in the case of his conduct on the bench - were unsuccessful.
Jenkins wrote to the NAACP national office in Baltimore to tender his resignation, according to a statement released by the organization last night. Here's what he stated:
Please be advised that the legacy, history and reputation of the NAACP is more important to me than the presidency. In order to separate the Los Angeles NAACP and the NAACP from the negative exposure I have caused the NAACP, I respectfully resign my position as President of the Los Angeles NAACP.
Interim President and CEO Lorraine C. Miller accepted.
After news of Sterling's despicable racial views broke over the weekend, people started to ask why he was scheduled to receive a major award from the NAACP. Between 2009 and 2012 tax records reviewed by the Weekly show, Sterling gave $5,000 to the group.
See also: Donald Sterling's 6 Other Greatest Hits
The 2009 award was handed to Sterling - and Jenkins said, defiantly, that it couldn't be taken back, that it wasn't a Heisman Trophy, "dude" - after Sterling had settled a federal housing discrimination case for a record $2.725 million. Since at least 2003 Sterling had faced allegations of racial bias against African Americans and Latinos at apartment complexes he owned.
But at a press conference Monday Jenkins noted that Sterling had donated tickets so that thousands of L.A. school kids could attend Clippers games.
The national office of the NAACP this week quickly canceled the May 15 award, but not before attention was focused on Jenkins, with audible efforts in the L.A. African American community to depose the local NAACP president.
"This is serious," community organizer Jasmyne Cannick told us yesterday. "Black people are really, really pissed off. We're embarrassed."
The episode, Cannick said, was a reminder that the NAACP in Los Angeles has been ineffective and out-of-touch on issues important to the hearts and minds of the people it's supposed to represent:
Most people wouldn't know Leon Jenkins if they walked passed him. I believe on the East Coast and down South, the organization is really the voice of the people. Here in Los Angeles? Their office is in the Fox Hills Mall. They don't congregate with the people. They keep mall hours.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.