PEMBROKE — Lumbee Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks has filed a petition with the tribe’s Supreme Court asking that the Board of Elections be ordered to hold the annual Tribal Council election that is mandated by the tribe’s constitution.
“We need an election. The lack of an election puts us in a constitutional crisis and I want the court to make this (election) happen,” Brooks told The Robesonian on Wednesday. “They (justices) are smart people. They were purposely chosen for their positions. They can make this election happen.”
Brooks filed his petition on Monday, the same day that Carvicous Barfield, chairman of the tribe’s Elections Board, announced that the Nov. 12 Tribal Council election is “suspended” until money can be found to pay for it.
Barfield and the tribal administration, headed by Brooks, have not been able to negotiate a funding agreement for the election. The Elections Board contends that the election will cost almost $26,000 to administer, while Brooks and Tribal Administrator Tony Hunt argue the election can be held for about $8,000.
“The (elections) board has no discretion as to whether an election is held,” Brooks said in his petition. “The constitution requires them to hold the election for the necessary council seats.”
Brooks argues that the election should only cost about $8,000 this year because polling sites will only have to be open in six of the tribe’s 14 electoral districts. In 2012, the cost of the annual election was about $31,000, but that included an election for tribal chairman that called for polling sites in all 14 districts to be open.
Elections cannot be paid for with federal money earmarked for housing through the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-determination Act.
Brooks says that money for the election should come from Lumbee Tribal Nation Program Inc., the council’s non-profit; only one polling site should be open in each of the six districts; the number of judges should be limited to two at each polling site; and volunteers should be used to administer the election.
Hunt said that he “can’t justify” spending $25,000 for an election that is smaller than the 2012 election.
“It just doesn’t fit for me,” he said.
Barfield on Wednesday did not return several calls from a reporter. She said earlier in the week that an offer from Hunt for $3,100, to be added to the $4,500 in filing fees that the board collected from the 18 candidates, is far from the amount needed to fund the election.
“Things get more expensive every year,” Barfield recently told The Robesonian. “We (board) are not trying to be unreasonable, but this board is responsible for running a credible election for tribal members. We are going to protect the rights of tribal members and the candidates.”
As of Wednesday, the five-member Supreme Court had not set a hearing date for the chairman’s petition.