PEMBROKE — Pearlean Revels, who had been banished from her position as speaker of the Lumbee Tribal Council, rejoined that body on Thursday, but did not receive a warm reception from tribal administrators.
Revels’ presence on the council led Tribal Administrator Tony Hunt to immediately rise from his seat, chastise the council for its actions, and leave the meeting.
“We will not be in contempt of the court order,” Hunt said. “All employees of the tribe who are here are to leave now.”
A couple of employees left shortly after Hunt, while a couple of others could be seen hanging outside the door through which Hunt left the room.
Council members made no comments, but immediately removed presentations from the agenda that were to be made by Hunt and two department directors.
In October, the tribe’s Supreme Court ruled that Revels had violated an agreement between Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks and the council requiring the chairman to turn over certain financial records to the council. Revels was accused of illegally taking the documents before the Aug. 31 deadline.
Supreme Court Justices Von Locklear, Tina Dicke, Garth Locklear and Wendell Lowery ruled that Revels breached the agreement worked out by the court. Chief Justice Gary Locklear recused himself.
The court ordered Revels to be removed from her office and banned her from having anything to do with the tribe for at least five years. Earlier this month the council passed two ordinances that in effect invalidate the court’s ruling.
Revels made no comments about her return to her seat on the council and her position as the council’s speaker.
Revels, who was prevented from seeking re-election to her seat in the Nov. 12 council elections because of the court order, represents District 3, which encompasses Lumberton.
“She felt that this is her position and she needed to come back to represent the people in her district,” Councilwoman Louise Mitchell said.
In a show of unity, 20 of 21 council members at Thursday’s meeting voted in favor of overriding several vetoes by Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks. The five ordinances were voted on together, a move that would make it more difficult for the chairman to challenge any of the vetoes in court.
The ordinances included: a timeline for the annual Indian Housing Plan that outlines how federal housing funds will be spent; regulations for governing the tribe’s Housing Department; a policy that puts the elders at the top of the list for housing rehabilitation; audit recommendations for implementation and compliance of recording and reporting financial statements; and regulations governing where the tribe’s Elders’ Advisory Committee is to meet.
Councilman Steve Sampson said that the chairman’s vetoes of the previously approved council legislation represents his refusal to work with the council.
“This is the chairman saying “I’m not going to do a single thing that this council wants to do,” Sampson said.
The council also approved an ordinance amendment that reduces the time for the chairman to veto any council-approved legislation from 30 to 10 days. The amendment also takes away from the tribal clerk the responsibility of posting ordinances for public review. That responsibility now is in the hands of the council secretary.
“This is for the ease of our operation and documentation,” said Councilwoman Anita Hammonds Blanks, who proposed the amendment. “… This way we don’t put any burden on the administration.”
Attempts by Mitchell, the tribe’s secretary, to post an ordinance at the tribal office complex on Nov. 18 resulted in an altercation between Mitchell and the tribal chairman. Mitchell filed assault charges against Brooks, with the case to be heard in Robeson County District Court on Monday.
Councilwoman Danita Locklear told the council that the ordinance the clerk and chairman refused to allow to be posted in the tribal office has been posted for public review at the Robeson County courthouse, the library in Pembroke and COMtech. She said that Brooks still has not “signed off” on the ordinance.
The ordinance in question governs judicial authority. A majority of the council believes the courts overstepped their authority when they banned Revels from being involved in any tribal activities for at least five years.
The council on Thursday heard a brief presentation from Carvicous Barfield, chairwoman of the tribe’s Board of Elections, concerning the recent elections. Barfield called the voter turnout, in which about 18,000 eligible voters in six contested districts could participate, “very low.” About 2,000 voters took part in the elections.
“This tells me that people are losing faith in their government,” she said.
Councilman Terry Campbell questioned Barfield about the effect enrollment books that went missing from the former office of the Board of Elections may have had on the Nov. 12 elections.
Barfield acknowledged that seven sets of enrollment books, which include such information as the name, address and roll number of tribal members, were found to be missing from the old office behind the tribal administration offices on N.C. 711 when the BOE moved to its new office on Union Chapel Road on Aug. 5. She said the lock had been broken on the door to the room where the books were stored, but there was no indication of a forced entry into the main office.
Barfield said she reported the break-in to the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, and was told to report the incident to the Pembroke Police Department. An officer came to the office and investigated, Barfield said, and a report was taken.
Barfield said that she had requested a copy of the report from the police to be delivered to her by Monday at 5 p.m., the deadline for candidates to file any protests concerning the elections. She still has not received a report, she said.
Barfield acknowledged that two of the 16 council candidates filed challenges with the BOE concerning enrollment books “floating around the community.”
She said the concerns will be addressed today at a meeting of the tribe’s five-member Board of Elections.
In other business, the council:
— Approved giving the council’s treasurer, McDuffie Cummings, the authority to review all of the tribe’s 17 bank accounts.
— Voted to give the chairman 48 hours to provide to each of the council’s 21 members certain financial documents that were previously requested. Council members have said this information is needed so they can carry out their constitutional responsibility of financial oversight.
Bob Shiles works for Civitas Media as a staff writer for The Robesonian.