PEMBROKE — Although it met for two budget work sessions this past week, the Lumbee Tribal Council still has not completed its fiscal budget for 2012-13, a document that was supposed to have been completed and approved by Oct. 1.
Tribal Speaker Pearlean Revels contends the budget is almost complete, but puts the blame for the delay directly on the shoulders of Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks. Revels said Brooks has not provided some of the information council members have requested to aid them in the budget-planning process.
Brooks, on the other hand, argued that he has provided council members with all of the information they need to carry out their legislative responsibility of putting together the tribe’s annual budget.
“I have given them everything. I have provided my proposed budget as required by the constitution. … They have more than enough information to pass a budget,” Brooks said. “… They have had a proposed budget since July and have failed for the first time in 11 years to pass a budget before the start of the current fiscal year. They are stalling this budget process to the detriment of the services to the people and are attempting to hold the administration hostage by threatening to cut specific staff people from the budget.”
Revels said the chairman has prohibited tribal staff from attending council meetings to answer questions that council members have about finances and tribal programs.
“It’s our authority and responsibility to monitor tribal finances,” she said. “It’s his responsibility to come before the council to answer questions about how money is being spent.”
In one of the latest clashes between the chairman and council, Brooks filed a petition late last month asking the tribe’s Supreme Court to prevent the council from spending tribal funds to research or establish a “Tribally Designated Housing Entity” to administer funds the tribe receives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In his petition, Brooks contended that authorizing money to be spent in such a way is beyond the Tribal Council’s scope of authority and is unconstitutional.
Brooks filed the petition after all but five of the tribe’s 21 council members voted Nov. 29 to obtain the services of Brian L. Pierson, an attorney from Wisconsin who is an expert on Indian housing issues, to provide information about the process for creating the housing entity. 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 the tribe’s housing programs is the responsibility of the tribal chairman and executive branch of tribal government.
As of the middle of last week, Lumbee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Locklear was not ready to commit the court to ruling on the chairman’s petition.
“Not every filing has merit,” he said.
Locklear said the court’s five justices will probably schedule a hearing on the petition.
As of Friday, The Robesonian could not find out from tribal officials whether a hearing has been scheduled.
Speaking as a member of the Lumbee Tribe and not as a judge, Locklear expressed concern in what he perceives as the tribe moving in a direction that is not in the best interest of tribal members.
“Our government is pretty dysfunctional right now,” he said. “In Washington you see a two-party system trying to work things out. Here we have only one party, we are all Lumbees, yet with 21 council members and a chairman all having their own opinions it looks like we have a 22-member party system.
“In my opinion, there’s a lot of personalities involved and that’s hurting the Lumbee people.”
Locklear said that even though he has a personal opinion on issues affecting the tribe, when he is sitting on the bench he makes his rulings based on tribal law.
“The law is the law,” he said. “In (the case of Brooks’ petition), for instance, there are a lot of gray areas.”