PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribal Council appears to have reversed course late Wednesday afternoon regarding a planned closed-door meeting Monday between council members and the companies developing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
It was announced this past week that Monday’s 6 p.m. meeting would be held behind closed doors. The scheduled meeting will be educational, and no decisions will be made, Tribal Council Speaker Bobby Oxendine said Wednesday morning.
Until late Wednesday afternoon, the meeting was intended as a closed-door session. Robie Goins, of Pembroke, found out the public may attend the meeting when he arrived to file a petition against the Lumbee Tribal Council for what he contends was a violation of Article 7, Section 5 of the tribe’s constitution.
Article 7 reads, “All proceedings of the Tribal Council shall be conducted in public session, except for proceedings certified in advance by the speaker as implicating privacy rights of a tribal employee or member. No proceedings of the Tribal Council shall take place in the absence of a quorum which shall constitute two-thirds of the sitting council members and all decisions of the Tribal Council shall require an affirmative vote of the majority of present council members, except that a veto override shall require two-thirds vote.”
Goins did not file his petition when he learned that the meeting will now be open and another meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 5 to allow pipeline opponents to discuss their concerns with the council.
“I was told that the meeting will now be open because there were some folks who were upset that the public could not attend,” Goins said. “I was also told that the tribe’s website has now been updated to say that the two meetings will be open to the public.”
Goins strongly opposes the construction of the 600-mile natural gas pipeline that will transport natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina.
Proponents say that the pipeline will be attractive to industries looking for clean and cheaper energy, and will bring jobs to Robeson County. The owners would pay the county property taxes on infrastructure.
Opponents say the pipeline is a threat to the environment, and are fighting to have it stopped.
In addition to alleging that the tribe was violating its constitution, Goins said in his petition that a closed public meeting with Dominion Power and Duke Energy representatives is in violation of North Carolina’s open meetings law.
“North Carolina’s open meetings law, Chapter 143 of the General Statutes, requires that all meetings of state and local governmental bodies be open to the public unless there is a specific statutory exemption authorizing closure,” Goins said. “According to the law, all official meetings have to be open to the public.”
In the petition, Goins asked the tribe’s Supreme Court to rule that the work session must be open to the public and that the court enjoin the Tribal Council to cancel the meeting until such time that this petition can be heard by the court and a ruling made on the scheduled work session based on Article 7, Section 5 of the Lumbee Constitution.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.