WHITE NOISE

The appointment of a senior executive of the discrimination-claim-plagued Adam's Mark chain to a leadership position in the St. Louis County NAACP stirs outrage

Kummer is more modest. He says he's "unfortunately" made just two executive-committee meetings since he joined the leadership ranks in March. The most recent was held last week at HBE's corporate headquarters in Creve Coeur.

Regardless of Kummer's NAACP membership, Adam's Mark's problems with African-Americans have continued.

On May 20, five blacks who were guests at the Daytona Beach Adam's Mark during Black College Reunion last April sued the hotel chain in federal court, claiming a myriad of racial misdeeds: Black guests were required to wear bright-orange wristbands; friends who weren't registered had to buy wristbands for $50 each; the hotel required a $100 damage deposit and $300 deposit for access to room minibars; it also required them to pay a $25 deposit to turn on their room telephones. No such requirements were placed on white guests, according to the plaintiffs.

The hotel has denied any wrongdoing, but the national NAACP office in Baltimore says Adam's Mark shouldn't be patronized, as a response to the pending litigation in Florida.

NAACP officials outside the St. Louis County chapter are aghast at Kummer's leadership role. "It would never happen here," says Charles W. Cherry, president of the Daytona Beach NAACP chapter.

Nor would it happen in the St. Louis city chapter, say both the past and current presidents. "Personally, I think it's a bunch of crap," says Charles Mischeaux, the past president, who adds that he worked for eight years to make peace with the hotel chain. "Nothing's changed. I don't think they've mended their ways."

James Morgan, current president of the city chapter, says he believes Kummer's position in the county chapter is an attempt to buy respectability. He fears Kummer's acceptance by the county chapter may undercut NAACP anti-discrimination efforts. "I have no control over what the St. Louis County branch does," Morgan says. "But I feel that in order for us to be a strong organization, we need to work together."

Morgan's discomfort is so strong that he insisted that a group photograph taken during a reception at last month's national NAACP convention in New York not be publicized because he appeared in the picture along with Kummer, who attended the convention as a delegate from the county chapter. Morgan says he did not recognize the hotel executive until it was too late.

"When I found out who he was, I was clear I did not want that picture published because I did not want to give anyone the impression that I had any type of relationship with the Adam's Mark hotel," Morgan says. "I told Mr. Kummer that had I known who he was, I would not have been in a photograph with him."

So why would the St. Louis County chapter welcome Kummer when so many other NAACP leaders won't even visit his hotels? The answer may lie with Ina Boon — and perhaps with her son.

While Boon was regional NAACP director for 10 Midwestern states in 1994, her office held a diversity conference and job fair at the Kansas City Adam's Mark despite the pending discrimination lawsuit later won by the hotel managers in St. Louis. Three months later, just days after the jury awarded the fired managers nearly $5 million, Boon held an NAACP fundraiser at the St. Louis Adam's Mark. The county chapter also holds its annual dinner at the St. Louis Adam's Mark.

Gentry Trotter, Boon's son, handles marketing for the St. Louis Adam's Mark through his firm Multi Media PR Group. He insists he had nothing to do with getting Kummer involved with the NAACP or into a leadership role. "Whoever's idea it was, I would like to claim it," Trotter says. "It's a brilliant move to get white folk in the corporate community involved. You always want to integrate an organization."

Trotter distances himself from his own mother.

"People assume in this narrow-minded community that mothers and sons talk all the time," Trotter says. "I don't talk about my business. She doesn't talk about her business. Like a good son, when my mother calls me up, I try to get off the phone as quick as possible. If she was trying to tell me she was trying to do something with Fred, I must have cut her off."

It's hard to say whether anyone's buying that.

"The facts are what they are, and people can draw their own conclusions," Morgan says.

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