NAACP probes allegations of financial misconduct by regional official
Letter to Boston Teachers Union, education group seeks information
THE NATIONAL NAACP is investigating allegations of financial impropriety involving the president of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP.
Michael Curry, a member of the national NAACP board of directors, revealed the investigation of Juan Cofield, a longtime Boston activist, in an email he sent Thursday to the Boston Teachers Union and the education advocacy group Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance (MEJA) seeking information from them.
“We anticipate an inquiry will be launched today into the actions of Juan Cofield, President of the New England Area Conference (NEAC) of the NAACP, in part based on allegations of financial impropriety,” Curry wrote in the email, a copy of which was obtained by CommonWealth. “As you can imagine, we take these matters seriously, and any acts of malfeasance impacts the work of the Association; so it is critical that we get any relevant information from all parties, while maintaining some discretion during the investigation.”
Reached by phone, Curry expressed surprise that a reporter had obtained what he described as an internal communication. “That’s an internal NAACP matter,” Curry said.
Curry declined to provide any additional information about the investigation. A staff person at the national NAACP did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Cofield did not respond to a voicemail or an email. Someone who answered the phone at his number said he was not in.
Curry, in the email, asked for information from the Boston Teachers Union and MEJA that might be relevant to the NAACP investigation. “It has come to my attention that you might have some information that speaks to possible acts of misappropriation, and possibly intimidation upon discovery,” he wrote, bolding those words in the email. “Ultimately, if there is a pattern and practice of financial misconduct by leadership in NEAC, we’ll need your contribution to expose and address this behavior.”
Cofield is the former treasurer of MEJA. It is not immediately clear what connection he has with the Boston Teachers Union, although BTU president Jessica Tang is a director of MEJA. Cofield was the treasurer of MEJA in 2020 when it was stripped of its nonprofit status by the Internal Revenue Service for failing to file its required tax returns for three years. It also failed to file annual reports with the attorney general’s office.
MEJA has since switched its treasurer to Beth Kontos, president of American Federation of Teachers – Massachusetts, the statewide union that the BTU is affiliated with, and the organization has submitted its tax returns.
Neither Kontos nor MEJA president Lisa Guisbond would comment on whether MEJA was cooperating with the NAACP investigation. Kontos said she was busy with an unrelated event and was not familiar with the investigation. Guisbond said she too had not read all the communications she has gotten about the investigation. “We haven’t had a chance to meet and decide what this is all about and how we fit,” Guisbond said.Tang did not respond to a request for comment.
Filings with the secretary of state’s corporate database list Cofield as the president of the South Middlesex branch of the NAACP and a director of other two other NAACP-affiliated groups. There did not appear to be a filing specifically for the New England Area Conference of the NAACP with the secretary of state’s office or with Attorney General Maura Healey’s nonprofit database.