The prevailing sentiment during the last several months — one that we have also offered — has been that the Lumbee Tribal Government, clawing for credibility with a largely disinterested nation, was doing itself no favors in that pursuit with a very public feud between the chairman and the Tribal Council.
At issue, not surprisingly, is control of the government’s housing program — or, as housing director Bosco Locklear so succinctly put it during a court hearing earlier this week, a struggle for “power.” We would break it down another notch, and say control of federal dollars, jobs and who the program benefits.
Chairman Paul Brooks has argued — and history is in his corner — that the tribe’s housing program has always been administered by the executive branch of which he is in charge. The Tribal Council has countered, if not in perfect harmony, that the constitution gives that body power to appropriate funding for a specific purpose and that it is not outside the constitution in attempting to pay a consultant for information about an entity separate from the Tribal Government that would administer the housing program.
Council members have said they are seeking information only, and are not committed to establishing such an entity, but the obvious question is why bother if that is not the goal line.
The head-scratcher is that the government was established more than a decade ago, primarily to wrestle the housing program away from Lumbee Regional Development Association. Now some members of the Tribal Council seem willing to cede that responsibility to an entity independent of the government.
While the Tribal Government has appeared at times in recent months to be dysfunctional, this ongoing dispute — especially the way it will ultimately be decided — actually testifies in favor of the functionality of the government, and not against it.
Tug-of-wars between the legislative and executive branches are very much part of the history of this nation’s government. The framers wrote the U.S. Constitution — the template for the Tribal Government’s — to guarantee tension between the executive and legislative branches, and to ensure that neither grabbed too much power. Disputes, the framers decided, would be decided by the third branch of government, the judicial system.
The duty now falls upon the five-member Lumbee Supreme Court to decide who the constitution favors, Brooks and the executive branch or the rebelling Tribal Council members and the legislative branch.
No matter the decision, that is how good government works.