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Wednesday, May 16, 2007 10:03 pm

Advocacy on hold

Future of IAMG executive director Roy Williams in doubt

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Roy Williams: “I’m not scared to lose this job, because I’m a fighter.”
PHOTO BY R.L. NAVE
Untitled Document All activities of the Illinois Association of Minorities in Government are suspended and the future of executive director Roy Williams is in doubt as IAMG board members seek answers to questions about the organization’s finances.
During the IAMG’s annual conference, held in Springfield last week, the organization’s eight-member board voted to put Williams on a 45-day paid administrative leave and suspend three of his staff members for 12 days. In question is the use of an IAMG American Express credit card, which Williams uses for both personal and businesses purposes. Williams says he pays personal expenses charged to the credit card. In February the board took away Williams’ fiduciary responsibilities, handing them over to the organization’s treasurer, Jennifer Childress, who, Williams says, eventually paid the full credit card bill with IAMG funds, giving the appearance of impropriety on Williams’ part. Childress hung up on a reporter who called her Wednesday morning to get her response; a subsequent call went unreturned. Williams, who was already on medical leave but continued working to prepare for the group’s annual conference, is confident that he will be vindicated but says that he is worried about his staff. “I’m not scared to lose this job, because I’m a fighter. I will stay true to the mission and the members,” says Williams, also a well-known Springfield activist and community organizer. Office manager Rebecca Leatherwood believes that board members made poor financial decisions, including spending money on retreats — and now they’re looking for someone to blame. “I think this whole situation has affected the organization’s credibility,” she says. “How can we advocate for employees when we’re advocating for our own jobs?”
After the conclusion of the IAMG’s annual conference, held in Springfield last week, Williams and three staff members returned to their offices, at 110 W. Edwards St., to find a locksmith changing the locks on the front door. Williams says he asked the locksmith to leave, but when they reported to work on Monday morning the locks had been changed. Board member and membership chairman Ray Coleman stands with Williams, calling the actions of fellow board members “unfair, unfounded, and detrimental to the future of our organization. “Roy is very popular among the members,” Coleman says, “but the reason he’s popular is because he’s been a very effective advocate for the members.”
In the meantime, Williams says, the IAMG’s day-to-day operations, including the processing of discrimination complaints and recently awarded college scholarships, are on hold. Williams, Coleman, Leatherwood, and other office staff are preparing to take legal action against board members for allegedly violating state labor law, as well as the bylaws of the association, a 501(c)(5) organization, the designation given to unions and other lobbying organizations.
Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com
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