It’s been more than a week since the Supreme Council of the Lumbee Tribal Government ruled that Sharon Hunt had to resign either as tribal chairwoman or as the representative of District 2 and, as we write this, she has done neither.
Critics see this as a black/white call, easy to make, and wonder what’s the delay. Hunt says not so, that her actions will establish a powerful precedent, and that any decision must be contemplated, not rushed.
The blame for this mess isn’t on Hunt, but on the framers of the Lumbee constitution, who set into a law a mechanism to replace the tribal chairman that stands on its head the ideal of separation of powers. The constitution says that the Tribal Council’s vice chairman — who is elected by the council — is elevated to the chairmanship in the event of a vacancy. The problem is the vice chairman serves in a legislative capacity, making law, and the chairman is part of the executive branch, which administers the law.
Therefore the conflict, which was correctly identified by the Supreme Court.
Further muddying the water is this question: Should Hunt resign her council seat, would she be eligible to run for another term as the District 2 representative? The constitution limits terms for a representative to two consecutive, but Hunt’s resignation would leave her short of two full terms. Perhaps she is seeking clarity before taking action.
What should be clear to all, including Hunt, is that by holding onto both seats, she is clearly violating the spirit of separation of powers, which is the foundation for the U.S. government. Her clinging to both seats pushes the tribal government in a direction it doesn’t want to take, with one person wielding too heavy a bat.
Hunt should resign one position immediately, mostly because it is the right thing to do, but also because it quiets commentary like this one today — publicity the Lumbee tribe simply doesn’t need.
After Hunt has resigned, then it would be time for the constitutional process for the replacement of the tribal chairman to be examined, and for law to be established that allows for that to be achieved while upholding the concept of the separation of the three branches of government, the executive, judicial and legislative.
At 10 years old the Lumbee tribal government hasn’t even reached its teenage years, so such growing pains should be expected. But another expectation is quick remedies to obvious problems, not a Four Corners approach.