PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribal Council on Thursday took the first step in what could lead to the establishment of a new system for administering the tribe’s housing programs.
The council during a special meeting agreed to obtain the consulting services of Brian L. Pierson, an attorney from Wisconsin who is an expert on Indian housing issues, to provide information about the process for creating a “Tribally Designated Housing Entity.” The creation of such an entity would allow an independent board — rather than the tribal government — to receive federal housing money and oversee the administration of the tribe’s housing programs. Currently the financial management and administration of housing programs is the responsibility of the tribal chairman and executive branch of tribal government.
“This is just for planning,” Councilwoman Louise Mitchell, chairman of the council’s Constitution and Ordinance Committee, said when questioned by council members about the reason for hiring Pierson as a consultant. “He will just advise us on what structures are available. It will be up to us after we hear all of the information, if we want a TDHE and if so how we want it to be structured.”
Mitchell did not say how much Pierson, who is the author of the National American Indian Housing Council’s “Indian Housing Development Handbook,” is going to charge for his services.
All but five council members — Terry Campbell, Larry Campbell, Terry Hunt, Helen Locklear and Lesaundri Hunt — voted in favor of hiring the consultant and a resolution that by law must be sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stating the tribe’s intent to pursue the creation of the housing entity. Councilman Steve Sampson was not at the meeting.
Although the council has discussed the possibility of creating a housing entity in the past, some opponents of changing the system say the current move by the council to set up the new system is revenge for Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks being re-elected on Nov. 13. Council members contend they are “frustrated” that Brooks does not provide them with the information they need to carry out their constitutional responsibility for oversight of how tribal money is spent.
Brooks, who was at Thursday’s meeting, made no comments to the council.
“I definitely don’t support the creation of a TDHE,” Brooks told The Robesonian.
Councilman Kernice Locklear, who has acknowledged frustration that Brooks and tribal staff members have not been attending council meetings, urged fellow council members to support the creation of the entity. He said that the council would have “more control” over how housing money is managed and how housing services are provided if the current system is revamped.
“Let’s not drag this out. Let’s move forward,” he said.
Before Thursday’s meeting, Pearlean Revels, the council’s speaker, said that the effort to create the housing entity is not political.
“This is about us doing the right thing. This is only business,” Revels said. “Until this government operates like a business, we are never going to go anywhere.”