LUMBERTON — A District Court judge on Monday told officials with the Lumbee Tribal Government to behave, saying if they do so then assault charges against Chairman Paul Brooks by Councilwoman Louise Mitchell will not be heard in court.
Judge Herbert L. Richardson agreed to a list of temporary actions submitted by District Attorney Johnson Britt and Brooks’ attorney, former state Sen. Tony Rand, that if adhered to by both parties would resolve the case.
“This would be a 45-day cooling off period that will allow both sides to look at the situation,” Rand told the judge. “… We want this to be resolved quietly and quickly for the benefit of the Lumbee people.”
Mitchell on Nov. 18 filed assault charges against Brooks, claiming that he “grabbed her arm, clothing and pushed” her as she attempted in her position as council secretary to post an ordinance for public review at the tribe’s administration complex, better known as The Turtle, on N.C. 711. Brooks admits to a confrontation, but says there was no assault.
Neither Mitchell nor Brooks spoke at Monday’s hearing.
According to the agreement, only individuals necessary for the day-to-day operations of the Lumbee government and groundskeepers are to be at The Turtle. If council members have business that needs to be conducted with tribal administration, they must contact the administration through an appointed liaison.
The agreement specifically prohibits any contact between the Mitchell and Brooks; says there are to be no derogatory comments from either party; and bans them from speaking to the media about the case.
It was unclear on Monday how the ruling will affect Tribal Council meetings. Several committee meetings have been scheduled to be held at The Turtle before the council’s next monthly meeting on Dec. 19.
Both sides agreed Monday that “assuming everyone” follows the agreement, the case will be considered resolved when it comes before the judge again in late January.
The charges brought by Mitchell against Brooks is another brick in a wall of disputes between the chairman and the council. On Friday, the day after the council welcomed back Speaker Pearlean Revels to that board, Brooks posted a note on the government’s administrative building saying that council meetings could no longer be held at The Turtle.
When Revels returned to the council for its meeting on Thursday, Tribal Administrator Tony Hunt walked out and ordered staff to follow him. Hunt told the council that the administration “will not be in contempt of the court order.”
In October, the tribe’s Supreme Court ruled that Revels had violated an agreement between Brooks and the council requiring the chairman to turn over certain financial records to the council. Revels was accused of stealing the documents before the Aug. 31 deadline.
The Supreme Court Justices ruled that Revels breached the agreement worked out by the court. 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.
The council last week, with 20 members present, responded to the administration’s actions by unanimously voting in favor of overriding several vetoes by Brooks.
Bob Shiles works for Civitas Media as a staff writer for The Robesonian.