CINCINNATI – The former national chairman of an Atlanta-based civil rights organization was indicted Wednesday in Ohio on 51 charges that include grand theft, forgery and tampering with government records.
The Rev. Raleigh Trammell, 73, was indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury in Dayton, where he lives and also headed a local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Trammell was indicted on one count of grand theft and 25 counts each of forgery and tampering with government records.
The alleged crimes occurred from 2005 to 2010 and involve the local chapter's meal delivery program. The charges involve meals that the county paid Trammell for and that were not delivered, according to prosecutor's spokesman Greg Flannagan.
Montgomery County government officials asked the prosecutor's office in March to investigate the Home Delivered Meals program operated by Trammell and the SCLC and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Flannagan said. Trammell, on behalf of those organizations, entered into contracts with Montgomery County Job and Family Services to deliver nutritious meals to low-income senior citizens.
"This defendant abused his position of trust and hid behind his title and position in order to perpetrate these crimes," Prosecutor Mathias Heck Jr. said in a statement. "Not only did he steal taxpayer money, but he denied meals as promised to elderly and frail citizens in our community."
The local SCLC and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance lost all of their county funding as a result of the actions, Flannagan said.
A warrant was issued Wednesday for Trammell's arrest. A number was not immediately available for Trammell.
Bishop Richard Cox, current president of the Dayton SCLC chapter, said Wednesday that he could not judge Trammell and that he and the community need to wait for the charges "to play out in court."
"It saddens you because he did some great work at one time in the community," Cox said. "I hope that people won't judge the current SCLC by actions that may have occurred in the past."
Cox said the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance has changed its name to the Dayton Christian Ministers Association. A number for the group was not immediately available.
National SCLC Chairman Sylvia Tucker said she was not concerned that the indictment would affect SCLC's image.
"We have always tried to do the right thing," she said, declining further comment.
Trammell lost his leadership positions at the local and national SCLC levels last year after a dispute among factions at the national level.
The SCLC was co-founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957 and was a leading voice in the civil rights movement and the struggle for racial equality. The organization has lost members and prominence in the decades since King's death in 1968 and has faced financial difficulty in recent years.
Infighting has compounded the SCLC's woes and landed the group in court last year as a judge had to decide control of the organization.
Art Rocker, special assistant to Tucker, said Wednesday that membership has increased significantly since Trammell was replaced.
He said he didn't think Trammell's indictment would hurt the organization "because we fought to get him out of leadership."
Associated Press Writer Errin Haines in Atlanta contributed to this report.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference: http://www.sclcnational.org