PEMBROKE — Despite the refusal of Chairman Paul Brooks to provide it with requested financial information, the Lumbee Tribal Council, acting as the Finance Committee, took steps Thursday to finalize a budget for fiscal year 2013, a plan that was supposed to be approved and effective as of Oct. 1.
Pearlean Revels, the council’s speaker, told council members that she learned Thursday afternoon that Brooks had instructed the tribal staff not to provide the council with a record of expenditures paid for with federal housing money during the months of October, November and December.
“I was told late this afternoon that Mr. Paul is not going to give us any information,” Revels said.
The council members, who have complained for months that the chairman is not providing the financial information they say they need to create the tribe’s annual budget, were obviously frustrated.
“I can count on my five fingers how many times the administration has been here to report to this council,” said Councilman Walter Lowery. “I think it is time for us to wake up.”
Brooks said this morning that the information requested by the council is not related to the budget process.
“They are seeking information regarding expenditures incurred after the new fiscal year began. The executive branch has provided more information than has been provided to any other Tribal Council during budget processes in years past,” he said. “These requests have little to do with the budget and is a tactic being utilized by the Tribal Council leadership to prevent that passage of a budget.
“The leadership of the Tribal Council is stalling. These requests are not about budget, but are merely a political ploy. Looking at the Indian Housing Plan that the council passed in July, the budget they are currently considering has little resemblance to the plan submitted and approved by HUD. Council can continue to play games with the future services of the Lumbee people, but I will not be a party to it.”
Despite their frustration, council members dealt with budget issues Thursday in preparation for a public hearing on the proposal scheduled for Feb. 5.
According to Councilman McDuffie Cummings, the budget includes a total of $23,168,860 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It also includes a little more than $1 million from other revenue sources, Cummings said.
As proposed, the budget includes eliminating five positions in the tribe’s Public Affairs and Assets departments. The number of people who would actually lose their jobs, however, is uncertain because tribal employees can be reassigned to other positions, according to Councilwoman Louise Mitchell, chairman of the council’s Constitution and Ordinance Committee.
About $6,000 is also being spent on a wage study of tribal employees, with all salaries being frozen at or below current levels.
After lengthy discussion, council member gave their approval to adding money for planning and construction of community buildings and elders sites in Districts 5, 8, 10 and 14. They also included $2.7 million to pay off the balance on the Lumbee Housing Complex, the facility on N.C. 711 that houses administrative offices.
Council members also agreed to allocate about $25,000 for tribal elections, and about $15,000 for advertising and legal and consulting services.
A recommendation by Cummings that court judges be paid for their services was also approved. Cummings said after the meeting that under his proposal, the Supreme Court’s chief justice would receive $125 an hour, with the other justices receiving $100 an hour. The head judge for the Administrative Court would receive $75 an hour and the other judges $50 an hour .
In other business, the council on Thursday approved a meeting with Brian L. Pierson, an attorney from Wisconsin who is an expert on Indian housing issues, to move ahead with the creation of a “Tribally Designated Housing Entity” to administer the tribe’s housing programs.
Brooks has petitioned the tribe’s Supreme Court to rule on whether or not the consultant can be paid for his services with federal housing money. A hearing on the issue will be held before the Supreme Court on Jan. 29.
The creation of such an entity would allow an independent board — rather than the tribal government — to receive federal housing money and oversee the administration of the tribe’s housing programs. Currently the financial management and administration of housing programs is the responsibility of the tribal chairman and executive branch.
Mitchell presented council members with a draft ordinance prepared by Pierson for establishing and administering a housing entity. She outlined the procedure to be followed in creating the entity that would be responsible for receiving and allocating federal funds for tribal housing programs and other services.
“The board (not the council) would be authorized to hire the housing director or administrator,” she said. “The administrator would be responsible for carrying out the program.”
Council members took no action on creating the housing entity, and the date to meet with Pierson has not been set.