Tribal members mobilize in effort to recall Lumbee chair

Bob Shiles Staff writer

December 13, 2013

PEMBROKE — Lumbee tribal members fed up with a government they say is inefficient, corrupt and not serving the needs of tribal members pledged Thursday to do “whatever is necessary,” including recalling the tribal chairman, to bring back respect, integrity and confidence in their tribal government.

“Whatever we do, we have to adhere to the constitution,” Eric Locklear, a self-proclaimed community activist, said during a meeting held Thursday night at the tribe’s administrative complex on N.C. 711.

About 70 tribal members, including eight members of the Lumbee Tribal Council, attended the meeting, which was called to allow tribal members the chance to express their opinions and discuss possible resolutions to ongoing power struggles among the tribe’s three branches of government.

“Politics, personalities and cliques should not be the overriding factors (in how government operates),” said tribal member Sam Kerns. “The people have lost faith and confidence in their government. They don’t feel their government stands up for the people.”

Those at Thursday’s meeting pointed to the inability of the council and administration, under the leadership of Chairman Paul Brooks, to work together; chastised and called for the removal of Supreme Court members for overextending their constitutional authority by banning tribal members — including Pearlean Revels, the council’s speaker — from tribal property; questioned the use of tribal money; and expressed outrage that top tribal leaders, including Brooks and Tribal Administrator Tony Hunt, have allegedly assaulted females.

While Brooks was portrayed as the cause of a majority of the tribe’s problems, tribal member Bruce Barton said that council members also need to take some of the blame for the dissension between the council and administration. He also said that government operations need to be more transparent so that tribal members know what is going on within their government.

“Where are the other council members tonight?” he said. “This concerns me … Are they staying away for a reason?”

The eight council members present were Terry Campbell, who moderated the two-hour meeting, Louise Mitchell, Robert Chavis, William Maiden, Terry Collins, Danita Locklear, Bobby Oxendine and Revels.

Neither Brooks, nor any of the tribe’s administrators, attended the meeting.

A proposal by Eric Locklear to recall Brooks and remove and appoint new Supreme Court justices received a warm reception from a majority of those tribal members attending the meeting. A suggestion to eventually reduce the number of tribal council members from 21 to 14, however, was not so warmly supported.

“Don’t reduce the size of the council. If anything make it larger,” said Welford Clark, a former member of the Tribal Council. “It’s easier to corrupt 14 then 21. Keep it big and keep it open.”

Locklear outlined the process of recalling the chairman, removing and appointing new Supreme Court justices and voting on a smaller council, all of which he said could be done by November 2014.

He said a petition drive is under way to recall the chairman. According to the tribe’s constitution, Brooks will have been in office long enough in January for a recall to move forward, Locklear said.

Locklear said the petitions are circulating in all of the tribe’s 14 voting districts, but only tribal members who cast ballots in the 2012 chairman’s election, about 5,000 of them, are eligible to cast ballots in a recall election.

He said 2,000 signatures will eventually have to be collected for an election to be held, with 1,000 signatures needed to get the process rolling, according to Locklear. At least 30 percent of the 5,000 eligible voters would have to take part in a recall election.

“It is the people who have to make this happen,” Locklear said. “You have the power.”

Campbell, at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting, said the meeting was called to “get at the truth” about problems within the Lumbee government and possibly find ways the problems can be resolved.

“I’m tired of being an elected official and not being able to answer the people’s questions when asked about such things as where money is going,” he said. ” … We (Tribal Council members) are the keepers of the purse and we are being kept in the dark.”

After the meeting, Campbell told The Robesonian that he felt the public session was “very productive.”

“We’re setting a precedent and breaking new ground,” he said. “Democracy is a good thing.”