Chief justice seeks solution to tribal elections stalemate

First Posted: 10/1/2013

PEMBROKE — Gary Locklear, the chief justice on the Lumbee Supreme Court, is scheduled to meet with Lumbee officials today in an effort to clear the way for Tribal Council elections that are tentatively on hold.

Carvicous Barfield, chairwoman of the tribe’s Elections Board, announced last week that the elections, which had been scheduled for Nov. 12, are “suspended” until money is available to pay for them as mandated by the Lumbee Constitution. In response, Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks filed a petition on Sept. 23 with the tribe’s Supreme Court asking that the Elections Board be ordered to hold the elections as scheduled.

Seven district council seats, with one unopposed, are up for election on the 21-member council. Eighteen candidates have each paid $250 in filing fees to be on the ballot. There is no race for tribal chairman this year.

Today’s meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the Pembroke town library. The meeting is closed to the public.

Locklear could not be reached for comment, but according to a statement by the tribe, he wants to meet with all parties and potential witnesses associated with the petition.

“I think something can come out of the meeting that will get this election back on track,” said Pearlean Revels, the council’s speaker and a candidate in the upcoming election. “I think the right thing will be done.”

But Alton Locklear Jr., one of the candidates running for the District 3 seat currently held by Revels, said he isn’t so sure the election can be held as planned.

“I don’t see an end to this at the present time,” he said. ” … We’re at an impasse. What do we do? There has to be a compromise.”

Tribal administrators and the elections board don’t see eye-to-eye over how much the elections should cost or where the money can be found. The Elections Board chairwoman is standing firm in her contention that the elections cannot be held for less than $21,313. The original Elections Board budget was about $26,000, but was reduced after $4,500 was collected in candidate filing fees.

Tribal Administrator Tony Hunt has said that the elections could held for about $8,000. The administration has said the money could be found by eliminating the salary and travel costs for each of the five Elections Board members; using volunteers to administer the elections; cutting the number of judges at the polls; and opening only one polling site in each of the contested districts.

Brooks said in his statement that he looks forward to today’s meeting.

“There has been substantial concern among candidates and tribal members regarding the Tribal Council election,” Brooks said. “… An election must be held. Tribal members should be given the right to say who represents them in their community.”