DECATUR, Ga. _ The ousted president of Alpha Phi Alpha is asking a judge to restore him as head of the nation’s oldest black Greek letter organization, claiming he was unfairly and illegally removed from office.
Judge Mathew Robins on Tuesday, July 24, delayed ruling on the issue, saying he needed more time to review additional information in the case filed in DeKalb County Superior Court on July 19 by Herman ”Skip” Mason. The emergency hearing is expected to resume Friday.
At issue during Tuesday’s two-hour hearing was whether the judge had jurisdiction over the fraternity, which is based in Baltimore, Md., or whether Mason is still in charge.
”Restraining from what?” the judge asked regarding the motion for a temporary restraining order. ”The man, when I read this, is still president.”
According to the complaint, Mason was ousted at the fraternity’s regional convention in Las Vegas in April after questions arose regarding Mason’s use of fraternity funds to pay for dependent care and tuition. Mason has denied that his use of the funds was a violation of his duties as president, and indicated in the complaint that he has made arrangements to reimburse Alpha Phi Alpha.
The fraternity contends his membership was suspended and he was removed from office because of allegations of financial mismanagement.
Alpha Phi Alpha was founded in 1906 on the campus of Cornell University. Among its members were the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., historian and activist W.E.B. DuBois and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Communications director Bryan Kelly said the organization has an estimated 20,000 active members.
Mason was elected 33rd general president of Alpha Phi Alpha in 2008. His four-year term would have ended this year.
His attorney, James Walker, told the judge that Mason’s removal would damage his reputation and finances.
”As the president of the organization, to have it released publicly and nationally that you’ve been suspended for the last 6 months of your term and you’re a member in bad standing … You have none of the privileges, none of the honors,” Walker said. ”It’s a harmful thing.”
Eric Barnum, an attorney representing Alpha Phi Alpha, told the judge that Mason tarnished his own reputation.
”Mr. Mason stood up in front of thousands of members of the fraternity and admitted to misappropriating funds,” Barnum said. ”He admitted to acting beyond the scope of his duties. If there is a blade to Mr. Mason’s neck, his hand is on the handle.”
After the hearing, Barnum said he remained confident in the fraternity’s position.
”Mr. Mason is not the general president,” Barnum said. ”He has been removed. His status has not been changed. Independent of that, the fraternity develops leaders, promotes brotherhood and academic excellence while providing services and advocacy for our communities and we will continue to do that.”
Meanwhile, Walker said he was encouraged by the judge’s comments.
”He didn’t rule yet, but … he stated repeatedly throughout, ‘In my opinion, Skip Mason is still the president,”’ Walker said. ”That is what we portended all along.”