The Southern Poverty Law Center announced Thursday it had fired its co-founder, Morris Dees, for undisclosed misconduct.
Dees, 82, co-founded the politically liberal, Montgomery, Alabama-based civil rights organization in 1971 and was its chief litigator. SPLC president Richard Cohen said the dismissal was effective Wednesday, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
"As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world," Cohen said in an emailed statement, the news outlet reported. "When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.
"Today we announced a number of immediate, concrete next steps we're taking, including bringing in an outside organization to conduct a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices, to ensure that our talented staff is working in the environment that they deserve – one in which all voices are heard and all staff members are respected."
A 1994 Montgomery Advertiser series showcased Dees as a multimillionaire who wielded almost singular control over the organization and its budget, and who allegedly engaged in discriminatory treatment of black employees. The organization denied the accusations.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee applauded the ouster, blasting the non-profit as a "sham group" that engaged in "smearing Christian conservatives," and asserting, without elaboration, Dees was dumped for alleged racism.
The SPLC is well known for its tracking of hate groups and its Teaching Tolerance program, NPR noted.