By Abbi Overfelt
September 20, 2013
PEMBROKE — Just a day after receiving word from federal officials that it has violated U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations by providing members monthly stipends, the Lumbee Tribal Council voted 13 to 5 Thursday to petition the Lumbee Supreme Court to remove Chairman Paul Brooks from office.
Tribal Council members will no longer receive stipends, which have totaled $735,000 since 2006 when federal officials said that such stipends are not an allowable use of HUD, which is supposed to be used just for providing housing services and housing-related programs.
According to Tribal Speaker Pearlean Revels, the petition asking the Supreme Court to remove Brooks from office will be filed with the Supreme Court as “soon as possible.”
The petition said that Brooks has “violated his oath of office” by repeatedly acting outside of his authority as granted by the Lumbee Constitution and the powers granted him as head of Lumbee corporations. It said he had violated a Supreme Court order to hand over financial documents to the council, and used about $50,000 to purchase a lot at Pinecrest Village, a private subdivision, and a car for his personal use without approval from the 21-member Tribal Council.
Revels, after a closed session meeting, publicly read the petition calling for the ouster of the chairman.
“Removal may be the only way to save our tribe,” Revels said, reading directly from the petition.
Brooks did not attend Thursday’s meeting.
Council members voting in favor of the petition were Revels, McDuffie Cummings, Louise Mitchell, Larry Chavis, Terry Campbell, Bobby Oxendine, Robert Chavis, Anita Hammonds Blanks, Walter Lowery, Danita Locklear, Homer Fields, Terry Collins and William Maiden. Those opposing the petition were Terry Hunt, Evan Davenport, Lesaundri Hunt, Linda Revels and Jonathan Locklear.
Three council members, Steve Sampson, Charles Bullard and Larry Campbell, did not vote.
Council members Thursday were reeling from the financial review by HUD that showed the stipends have been awarded in violation of regulations. Although McDuffie Cummings. the council’s Finance chairman, does not believe HUD will ask for the money back, HUD regulations allow for the possibility.
Council members and the chairman have been receiving a monthly stipend of $550. That’s up from $250 a month in 2006.
According to a recent letter from HUD to Brooks and Revels, council members have continued to receive their monthly even though the federal agency had informed them in 2006 that the stipends were not an allowable use for the federal dollars.
“It is clear that LTNC (Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina) has ignored the directives provided … and in fact have increased the unallowable charges to the IHBG (Indian Housing Block Grant) to a payment rate which exceeds that which would be incurred by a prudent person under the circumstances prevailing at the time the decision was made to incur the cost,” the letter reads.
HUD officials were in Robeson County in August to conduct the audit. The audit was the result of complaints HUD received about spending for certain programs, including those for tribal elders and veterans, stipends, and payment to the tribe’s lawyer, Ed Brooks, the nephew of the tribal chairman.
On Wednesday, tribal administrators and council members met with a HUD official to discuss numerous complaints about tribal use of the federal money. According to documents, the official told the council that the stipends are not allowed. He also informed council members that the tribe must pay back $31,000 that was paid to Ed Brooks because procurement policies were violated.
Cummings said that there was no indication from the HUD official on Wednesday that the tribe would have to pay back any of the $735,000 in stipends.
According to tribal officials, there was also a discussion with HUD about how services for the tribe’s elders and veterans are being funded. They said that there have been recent changes in HUD’s regulations for how federal money can be spent.
“Programs for the elderly are not being cut,” Revels said during Thursday’s meeting, “but there were some problems with the services.”
In other business, the council on Thursday:
— Approved an ordinance that designates tribal elders as the priority for housing rehabilitation.
— Approved the accounting firm of Preston Douglas & Associates to conduct the tribe’s annual audit.
— Heard an update from state Rep. Charles Graham concerning recent state legislation that affects the Lumbee Tribe. Graham called the recent session of the General Assembly “very friendly to the Lumbee and state tribes in general.” He specifically mentioned bills that: provide for the Lumbee Tribe to purchase the Indian Cultural Center property and the now closed Riverside Golf Course; provide guidance to the court system when there are child custody issues involving American Indian children; and allow the membership cards of American Indian tribes in North Carolina to be used for voter identification.
— Held the swearing in of Furnie Lambert as a member of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs. Also, the oath of office was administered to two Board of Elections members: Sheila Beck-Jones, a regular member, and Patricia Oxendine, an alternate member.