The national NAACP has removed the president of the Virginia State Conference NAACP, which has lacked a permanent executive director for more than five years.

Robert Barnette of Hanover County was named president, replacing the Rev. Kevin Chandler of South Boston, during a meeting Saturday at the state organization’s Graham Road headquarters conducted by Gloria J. Sweet-Love, a national NAACP administrator.

Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP, has been charged with overseeing the Virginia organization’s restructuring to bring its governance and management “in alignment with the current rules and procedures that govern the National Board of Directors,” according to a news release issued by Barnette.

Chandler said during a phone interview that he did not learn about his dismissal until Tuesday morning.

“This was a shock to me,” he said. “I found out by another reporter calling and inquiring about this. I was not notified of my removal, and unfortunately I was not present at the meeting Saturday. So I find it strange that this is taking place.”

Sweet-Love, in an email Tuesday, said Chandler was notified of the change.

The Virginia State Conference NAACP has not had an executive director since Jack Gravely resigned as its interim head in June 2016. The organization’s last permanent executive director was King Salim Khalfani, who was ousted 5½ years ago.

“They have been faltering for several years and have not hired an executive director,” Sweet-Love said in an interview. She said she had been directed by the national office to redo the Virginia organization’s constitution and bylaws and bring continuity of operation to its branches throughout the state.

“Anything that gets in the way of the operation and making sure that people are fighting for civil rights and social justice is a distraction,” she said. “People in the community and across the state need the Virginia State Conference to be a strong, viable unit that can stand up to anybody and anything that happens.”

Chandler acknowledged that the state organization has had issues “for quite a while now” and said its bylaws were last reviewed about 2011. “At first glance, [Sweet-Love] wondered how they were passed by national then,” he said.

The state conference agreed to go under administration “to assist us in righting the ship, and it seemed as if everything was going well,” he said.

As for the long-standing opening in the executive director’s position, Chandler said the Virginia NAACP’s executive committee could not reach a consensus on a job description, benefits and other issues.

In the absence of an executive director, “most of the complaints would come to me,” Chandler said. The organization has one full-time staff member and Mary Easter, a longtime staffer turned volunteer.

He said there are 52 to 54 local NAACP units in compliance, not including youth and college branches. An additional 25 or so are inactive, he added.

Barnette, previously the state NAACP’s vice president, attended Saturday’s meeting called by Sweet-Love.

“She just indicated she was making some administrative moves in leadership” without going into detail about why she was making the changes, he said.

Barnette said the action did not involve malfeasance or financial improprieties.

“It’s more of a procedural thing. We have ways to operate, and national felt like we needed some guidance in making sure we did that.”

When the state NAACP is done preparing for its annual convention in November, it will move in earnest to fill its executive director’s post, Barnette said.

“When you don’t have someone in the office on a day-to-day process, it hurts the organization and things get dropped or not handled as expeditiously as they could be handled.”

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mwilliams@timesdispatch.com

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