PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Supreme Court next week will hear a petition from Chairman Paul Brooks asking for a ruling on whether he can seek re-election to that office.
The filing period begins on Monday.
The hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Tribal Housing Complex, better known as The Turtle, on N.C. 711 just outside Pembroke.
Respondents named in the petition include the tribe’s Elections Board and its chairman, Sheila Beck-Jones.
“I’m glad the court is hearing this petition,” Beck-Jones said Wednesday. “This issue needs to be resolved for everyone concerned, the candidates and members of the tribe. It is like a cloud hanging over everyone’s head. Even Mr. Brooks needs to know. It probably affects him more than anyone else.”
Beck-Jones, representing the Elections Board, had filed a petition asking the court to dismiss Brooks’ petition or wait to hear the case until the Board of Elections is provided money for legal counsel.
“As of today, we still don’t have an attorney,” Beck-Jones told The Robesonian on Wednesday. “We don’t even yet have money to run an election. How could we pay for legal representation at this hearing?”
Beck-Jones said that the entire five-member Board of Elections will be present at Tuesday’s hearing.
“With or without an attorney, our whole board will be there to give facts and let the Supreme Court decide the issue,” she said. “That’s why the court is there. It’s to make these tough decisions as far as the tribe’s constitution and laws are concerned.”
The Supreme Court late last month refused to hear two petitions from tribal members seeking a ruling on whether Brooks is eligible to run for re-election in November. The justices had decided that there is no issue to adjudicate because Brooks had not yet filed.
The Lumbee Constitution states that elected officials can serve only two consecutive three-year terms. In two previous Supreme Court cases, the justices have ruled that a partial term counts as a full term.
In his petition, Brooks argues that the final year he served to complete the unexpired term of former Chairman Purnell Swett should not be considered a term. After serving out Swett’s term, Brooks was elected in November 2012 to his current three-year term.
“A term cannot be shared by two persons,” Brooks’ petition reads.
Beck-Jones said that she does not see how with the court can rule that Brooks can run for re-election.
“I think they (justices) will do the right thing,” she said. “If they don’t, I’m afraid there is going to be an uproar among the Lumbee people.”
Brooks announced in an advertisement in The Robesonian that he did plan to seek re-election. Harvey Godwin, a Robeson County businessman, has also signaled his intention to run for chairman.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.