PEMBROKE — A nonprofit leading a recall effort against Lumbee Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks hopes by today to have enough voter signatures calling for the chairman’s ouster to move forward with a recall election.
The Lumbee Revolution has requested that recall petitions sent to the approximately 5,000 tribal members who voted in the 2012 election for chairman be signed and returned by today. According to the tribe’s constitution, 10 percent of the voters in the last chairman’s race — in this case about 500 — must sign the recall petition before the petition can be submitted to the tribe’s Board of Elections for certification.
The constitution requires that once the signatures are certified, a copy of the petition must be sent to the chairman and he has 15 days to reply to the charges against him. At the end of the 15 days, the petitioners have up to 45 days to get an additional 10 percent, or 500, signatures from the 5,000 voters who participated in the 2010 election. The additional signatures must be collected before an election date can be set.
“We don’t know exactly how many signed petitions we have received, but they are coming in daily,” Sam Kerns, a member of the approximately 50-member committee overseeing the petition drive, said Thursday. “We had about 600 returned petitions as not deliverable, so we will have to deliver these petitions by hand.”
Kerns said that the committee will meet on Monday to review returned petitions. No date has been set to when the petitions will be submitted to the Board of Elections for certification.
According to the petition, Brooks is “guilty of general malfeasance, having been cited by the federal government for misuse of public funds.” It also contends he has acted in “disregard for tribal law and custom,” has been found by the Lumbee Supreme Court to be guilty of six counts of contempt, and has “openly abused his authority in the North Carolina Court System in actions where he has brought suit against tribal members, with at least one case ending in the state assuming jurisdiction in a tribal matter.”
Terry Campbell, a member of the Lumbee Tribal Council and strong supporter of recalling Brooks, said that the chairman’s misuse of public funds has put the entire tribe “in jeopardy.”
“He has jeopardized the tribal membership by misappropriating federal funds,” he said. “We could lose our federal funding.”
Funding for tribal elections cannot come from federal money, so the recall process is being funded through private contributions, Kerns said. Kerns said private donations have paid for $2,500 to $3,000 worth of printing, stamps and envelopes. The total cost of the election will be between $20,000 and $25,000, he said.
Campbell said tribal members are more than willing to support the recall against Brooks.
“At this time, we have people donating the time and resources we need for this recall,” Campbell said. “That is how fed up tribal members are with the chairman’s actions.”
Brooks, in a statement earlier this week to The Robesonian, defended his actions as chairman.
“I am working in the best interest of the Lumbee Tribe to the best of my ability,” Brooks said. “I will continue to work to move our government in a positive direction.”
He also said that a robo-call to tribal members questioning The Lumbee Revolution’s accusations and status as a nonprofit organization cost $200 and was paid for with tribal funds. The calls were sent out twice, he said, at a cost of $100 each.
Attempts by The Robesonian to talk with Cody Godwin, chairman of The Lumbee Revolution committee overseeing the petition drive, about the recall efforts and time frame for holding a recall election, were unsuccessful. Godwin did not return a reporter’s phone calls.
But Kerns said that the election could be scheduled by the end of April if private money is available.
“Traditionally in the past, tribal administrations have refused to supply the funds needed for elections as required by the tribe’s constitution,” he said. “There are elections for proposed constitutional amendments that have been held up for seven years because no tribal money has been supplied for the elections.”