Tribal elections office gets new home

First Posted: 8/9/2013

PEMBROKE — A dispute between Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks and the Lumbee Tribe’s Elections Board chairman is being cited by some council members and other tribal members as the reason the tribe’s Elections Board office has been moved to the tribe’s former administrative building on Union Chapel Road.

Carvicous Barfield, the Elections Board chairman, was informed in a letter from Brooks that she has been banned from all tribal property. According to Barfield, the action taken by Brooks resulted from an incident related to her involvement with the tribe’s Elders Services. Barfield is a member of the Elders Services Advisory Board, whose members are appointed by the Lumbee Tribal Council. She serves on the tribe’s Elections Board as an appointee of the Tribal Council.

Barfield plans to appeal the ban, which she contends Brooks has no authority to invoke, to the tribe’s Supreme Court. She also said she is considering filing a slander and defamation lawsuit against Brooks in the state’s civil courts.

Several of the tribe’s elders defended Barfield last month at a meeting of the Tribal Council, saying she did nothing that should result in her being banned from tribal property.

Tony Hunt, the tribe’s administrator, said that there is a difference of opinion among the chairman, Barfield, council members and tribal elders over Brooks’ authority to ban Barfield from tribal property.

“Issues like this are usually settled in the courts,” he said.

With the candidacy filing period for the November Tribal Council elections beginning in eight days, the Board of Elections office moved out of the building in back of the Tribal Housing Complex on N.C. 711, and relocated in the tribe’s former administrative office complex on Union Chapel Road.

Barfield said she received a certified letter from Brooks on July 19 giving the Board of Elections two weeks to vacate the current office. The reason given by Brooks, she said, is that the use of a tribal owned building for elections is not an accepted use of the federal funds allocated to the tribe by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Native American Self Determination Act.

“For years, the tribe has used unrestricted funds for tribal elections, but the tribe allowed the Elections Board to use the tribal housing property at no cost,” Barfield said. She said the push by the chairman to relocate the Elections Board was a personal attack against her.

Councilman McDuffie Cummings told The Robesonian that HUD regulations would allow the use of the tribal building for the Elections Board office if the board would pay the tribe fair market value of square footage used.

Cummings said that it was the Tribal Council that made the decision that relocating the office would be in the best interest of the Elections Board.

“The council decided to move the office to avoid another fight, ” Cummings said.

When asked by a reporter if Brooks’ decision to force the Elections Board out of the tribal owned building had anything to do with his dispute with Barfield, Hunt said: “The biggest reason is that we don’t want to jeopardize our HUD funding.”

Hunt said that the office on Union Chapel Road will provide more room for the BOE to conduct its business.

Barfield agrees that the new office may provide a better environment.

“In the long run this will probably be better,” she said. “There is more space and a better overall environment.”

The filing period for anyone planning to run for one of seven seats on the 21-member Lumbee Tribal council opens Aug. 26 and continues through Sept. 13. The election will be held on Nov. 12.