Los Angeles NAACP President Leon Jenkins has resigned amid scrutiny surrounding the organization’s decision to give awards to disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
In his letter of resignation Thursday evening, Jenkins said 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 … I respectfully resign my position as president of the Los Angeles NAACP.”
The group granted Sterling an award in 2009, the same year the real estate magnate and L.A. Clippers owner paid $2.73 million to settle U.S. government claims that he refused to rent his apartments in Koreatown to Latinos and blacks.
The chapter was set to give Sterling a second award when a recording emerged in which a man said to be Sterling asked a female friend not to publicly associate with African Americans.
While Jenkins was a Detroit judge, he was indicted in 1988 on federal bribery, conspiracy, mail fraud and racketeering charges, according to records from the State Bar of California.
Authorities at the time alleged that Jenkins received gifts from those who appeared in his court and committed perjury, according to the records.
He was acquitted of criminal charges, but in 1994 the Michigan Supreme Court disbarred him, finding “overwhelming evidence” that Jenkins “sold his office and his public trust,” according to the bar records.
Jenkins was practicing law in California in 1991, serving as an attorney to the family of Latasha Harlins, an African American girl who was fatally shot by a Korean grocery store owner in South L.A., according to Times reports at the time.
In 1995, the state bar began looking into the misconduct allegations from Michigan. He was disbarred in 2001. He tried to be reinstated in 2006 but was rejected, according to records. He made another attempt in 2012.
Earlier this month, the bar turned him down, questioning whether he had the “moral fitness to resume the practice of law,” according to records. The bar stated that he had made misrepresentations on divorce papers and on his petition for reinstatement to the bar. Officials said he failed to disclose a $660,000 loan he owed former legal clients.
In his efforts to win back his law license, Jenkins said he was a rehabilitated man and a force for good in the community.
He said he’s raised $2 million for the NAACP’s 2011 national convention in Los Angeles. He also cited work with organizations that helped African Americans, including youth mentoring programs and voter outreach.
On the L.A. NAACP’s website, a biography for Jenkins notes he was “the youngest African American judge to serve in Michigan” but does not mention his legal troubles.
Jenkins did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.