More gas on the fire

January 23, 2014

Just when we didn’t think things could get any wackier concerning the Lumbee tribal government, well, they did — and not by a little bit. An accusation by the government’s No. 1 critic that someone tried to kill him, apparently as a way to silence him, is not a laughing matter — unlike the tribe’s hijinks that we have become so weary of reporting, and the people the government was established to serve have become equally weary of reading.

Eric Locklear, a self-ascribed community advocate, never hesitates to point a finger and, after what investigators say was an arson that heavily damaged his Pembroke home on Sunday, his comments make it clear he believes he was targeted for his criticism of the tribal administration, specifically Chairman Paul Brooks. Locklear is currently the head cheerleader in an effort to gather enough signatures on a petition for a recall election that he hopes would unseat Brooks.

We won’t make what is a short leap from there, but we are sure many others already have. And we are reminded of a couple things that stack up against each other: Innocent until proven otherwise, and it’s difficult to unpoint a finger.

The Lumbee tribal government has been an embarrassment now for more than a few years. Brooks was named chairman when Purnell Swett tried to pull the plug on scandal with his resignation. Brooks was then elected to his own three-year term, but he and the Tribal Council have been embroiled in a power struggle since then that has basically been a slow-moving train wreck, often involving the court system, both criminal and civil. Only this week a judge dismissed an assault charge against Brooks that was brought by a former councilwoman.

Not too long ago, we learned that for years councilmembers were paying themselves stipends in an illegal use of federal money. Since then, it has becoming increasingly difficult for the council to muster a quorum to do business.

This newspaper on a regular basis, if not daily certainly weekly, hears complaints that the tribe isn’t fair in how is dispenses housing money, with it being directed toward friends and family first and then elsewhere if at all.

The Lumbee people who speak with us have been embarrassed by it all, which explains why they stay home in large part during elections, stripping the government of any legitimacy. None of this plays well in Washington, D.C., where this infighting is just another arrow in the quiver of those who oppose recognition for the tribe.

We have no knowledge of who committed the arson at Locklear’s home or the motive. Investigators say they have clues to follow and we can all hope that an arrest is imminent, and that questions will be answered.

We would caution against believing the worst until the facts take us there.