PEMBROKE — Two former Lumbee Tribal Council members on Thursday told current council members that an attempt by some tribal members to shrink the size of the council is misguided, and the current structure of 21 members is working well.
Jimmy Hunt and Welford Clark argued that the present council size maintains the principle of one-man, one-vote, and guarantees that smaller communities have a representative sitting on the governing board.
Both Hunt and Clark were speaking in opposition to a petition drive headed by Eric Locklear that would allow tribal members to decide in a referendum if the council should be reduced from 21 to seven members. Locklear, who was not at Thursday’s meeting, has said that he would like to see the referendum held before the November elections.
Locklear told The Robesonian earlier this week that he plans to submit petitions with more than the 750 signatures needed to require the referendum soon. He contends that the election can be held almost immediately if the Board of Elections follows constitutional guidelines for verifying signatures and advertising the referendum.
Locklear has refused to name those directly behind the petition drive, but has said there are about 10 individuals actively working toward the goal of reducing the size of the council.
Hunt said he would rather “take a chance” on the council members who face the public than follow tribal members who hold backroom meetings and won’t conduct tribal business in the open.
“Who are these people and why are they hiding behind closed doors?” Hunt said to the council. “Far as I know they could be members of the Taliban.”
Clark told the council that he does not believe a large number of Lumbee tribal members are pushing for a smaller tribal council.
“There has never been, and I don’t think there is today, an outcry to reduce the size of the council,” he said. “… It can’t be guaranteed that our smaller communities will have a friendly face or voice on the council if there are less than 21 sitting at the table.”
The Robesonian currently has a poll at robesonian.com where people can vote on whether they believe the council should be made smaller. As of this morning, 79 percent of the respondents said the council is too larger, 12 percent had no opinion, and 9 percent said it is not too large.
The council members on Thursday once again expressed their displeasure with the lack of communication that continues to exist between the tribe’s legislative and executive branches.
Several council members complained to Sharon Bell, the tribe’s finance director, and Tammy Maynor, the director of governmental affairs, that they have not received requested financial information that they need for preparing the upcoming financial budget that goes into effect on Oct. 1. Asked why they have not received the information, Bell said that she releases information at the discretion of Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks and Maynor.
Brooks did not attend Thursday’s meeting.
Jimmy Hunt immediately came to Bell’s defense, telling council members their displeasure with the administration should be directed at Brooks, not Bell.
” He (Brooks) ought to be man enough to stand here before you and take it,” Hunt said. “He shouldn’t put employees in a position like this … .They have to sit here and take it because they’re scared if they say anything they won’t have a job.”
In other business:
— Willie Wendell Lowery was appointed to the tribe’s Supreme Court.
— Welford Clark was appointed to the tribe’s Administrative Court.
— Daniel Jones was reappointed to the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs.
— Leon Jacobs was appointed to the NAHASDA Rule Making Committee. Tammy Maynor was appointed an alternate to the committee.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-252-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.