Naaman Stewart, the disgraced former president of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, will be reinstated as a member of the organization after allegations of sexual abuse but will not necessarily reign as king next Carnival.
Stewart sought to regain his crown, arguing that Zulu violated its bylaws when members voted to suspend him indefinitely and strip him of his title.
Stewart and his attorneys argued that kings can only be removed by death. The club countered that, saying a clause about "unforeseen circumstances" encompassed more than just death.
Civil District Court Judge Christopher Bruno agreed, saying Zulu violated its own bylaws by suspending Stewart without first having a grievance committee meeting and finding him guilty. But he refused to restore Stewart’s kingship.
While Zulu officials have not addressed the matter, the decision to remove Stewart as king-elect would seem to clear the way for George V. Rainey to reign as King Zulu 2019 after he lost to Stewart by six votes.
Zulu's President Elroy James said the accusations against Stewart caused the club problems, including corporate and community partners who no longer wanted to be associated with Zulu.
James said one of the partners could have represented a loss of thousands of dollars for the club's Carnival ball and products for picnics and the Christmas party.
A former Zulu club employee sued Stewart, alleging he made unwanted sexual advances to her inside the organization’s Broad Street clubhouse.
“The (Zulu) organization represents a body of men who respect women and understand our role in the community, and so we represent upstanding members in the community and we're going to continue to do that,” James said.
The club has since begun to work on a sexual harassment policy, James said.
Before the club stripped Stewart of his title as King Zulu 2019, it suspended him.
In court, Stewart said the allegations of sexual harassment have been embarrassing, have damaged his reputation and affected his business as a social worker.
Stewart's attorney said he does not yet know if his client will seek damages after spending between $25,000 and $30,000 on his campaign to be king.
After Bruno’s ruling, Stewart and his attorney described the day as a victory.
“He's not King Zulu, so that has to be disappointing, but he’s been in the Zulu organization for many many decades and he gets to continue, so that's certainly worth something,” Nick Linder, Stewart's attorney said.
But that return could be brief.
A grievance hearing is set for Saturday, and that committee could recommend that Stewart be suspended or expelled.
Kristin Pierce can be reached at email@example.com.