Speaker critical of retreat

First Posted: 9/18/2013

PEMBROKE — The speaker of the Lumbee Tribal Council is questioning why the tribe’s administration, led by Chairman Paul Brooks, is taking the tribal government’s employees on a two-day “retreat” to a resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“I don’t understand why they are taking everyone, ” said Pearlean Revels, the council’s speaker. “You know that some family members will be going … . This is just going to be a big vacation for some.”

Revels said that the retreat is slated to be held on Sept. 27 and Sept. 28. Government offices will be shut down on Sept. 27, which is a Friday.

According to the speaker, the tribe has about 140 employees. Not all are directly involved in providing housing and related services to tribal members.

Revels said that funds for the retreat are an approved use of federal housing funds allotted the tribe under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act as long as housing and housing-related services are discussed. These funds, however, are not permitted to be used to pay for employee family members to attend, she said.

Revels said that she does not know how much is being spent for the two days in Myrtle Beach, but said it could be significant since the cost of rooms at beach resorts has not dropped much from peak summer rates.

The speaker said that such a retreat could be held locally at a facility such as the Pembroke Boys & Girls Club, which is located adjacent to the tribal office complex on N.C. 711 just outside of Pembroke. The building was constructed to allow for such meetings, Revels said.

Attempts by The Robesonian to get comments from the tribal administration were unsuccessful. Calls to Tony Hunt, the tribal administrator, were not returned.

The retreat is coming in the wake of the recent announcement by the tribal administration that there is no money available for the annual Tribal Council election to be held on Nov. 12. The Lumbee Constitution mandates that an election be held every year.

“I don’t understand how there can be a retreat at the beach when there is supposed to be no money in the budget for an election or other services,” Revels said.

An election is not a permitted use for federal HUD funds, and both Hunt and Brooks have said there are no unrestricted funds provided anywhere in the current fiscal year budget to be used for an election or anything else. But Carvicous Barfield, chairman of the Elections Board, and members of the Tribal Council disagree.

“The council approved $26,000 for an election and put it as a line item in the budget,” Barfield said. “That money is there.”

Last week Brooks released a statement suggesting that the election could be funded by council members, as well as himself, giving up their monthly stipend of $550. He said that money, as well as the $250 filing fee collected from each of the 18 candidates who will be on the ballot, would go a long way in providing the more than $25,000 needed to fund the election.

According to Barfield, the chairman also submitted two other suggestions for election funding that her five-member board discussed on Saturday. These suggestions, she said, included having only one polling place in each of the seven districts where council seats are being contested, and getting volunteers to assist in the election.

Barfield said that her board voted down both suggestions and a letter was sent Monday to the chairman notifying him of the board’s decision.

According to Barfield, if money for the election is not available by Monday the election will be “suspended.” Those council members who are currently holding the seats up for election will continue to serve until a vote can be held, Barfield said.