PEMBROKE — The chairman of the Lumbee Tribe’s elections board on Thursday said that while she and Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks disagree on most election-related issues, they do agree on one election principle— the Lumbee Constitution clearly states that the elections board is responsible for all elections.
Carvicous Barfield, the board chairman, and Brooks are in an ongoing dispute over funding for the annual Tribal Council elections, with the chairman saying the money doesn’t exist.
Barfield, who said the other four members of the elections board agree with her stand against the chairman, says that Brooks is overstepping his constitutional authority by meddling with election business.
Barfield said in a statement that a May 2005 ordinance passed by the Tribal Council says that the elections board has the authority to promulgate necessary and appropriate regulations under authority of the constitution and tribal ordinances governing the conduct of all regular and special tribal elections; conduct all recall, initiative, and referendum proceedings; and (conduct) any other matters specified or authorized by tribal ordinance.
“The chairman just doesn’t understand the elections process,” Barfield told The Robesonian on Thursday.
As of Thursday, there still was no agreement between the tribe’s administration and the elections board on where funding for the election will be found.
Barfield agrees with Brooks that $4,500 in filing fees from candidates can be used for the elections, which were scheduled for Nov. 12, but she says $26,000 is needed. Brooks says the election can be done for less since only seven districts will be voting.
“It is not the elections board’s responsibility to obtain funds for an election,” Barfield said in her statement. “The elections board provided a budget to the Tribal Council in December 2012 that was included in the … budget as an unrestricted line item expense. The elections board budget has been modified as of this date minus the $4,500 filing fees. The election has been funded in years past by the executive branch.”
Barfield said in her statement that last year’s $32,233 election, which included a chairman’s race, was “considered a credible and honorable election for Lumbee tribal members.”
“The elections board has made every effort to conduct a round-table discussion with the chairman in an attempt to come to an agreement,” Barfield said. “The election that the board stands for is the best option for the tribal members. However, our efforts have failed and the chairman has refused to meet the standards for the election process that has been conducted in years past.”
Barfield said that Brooks overstepped his authority when he filed a petition with the tribe’s Supreme Court on Monday Brooks is asking that an election be held with volunteers being used at the polling sites, only one polling site being open in each of the six districts with contested races, and only one tribal enrollment book being used per district.
“In The Robesonian … the chairman has defended his view on the election process for the Lumbee tribal members. The elections board must ask this question, ‘Where does his authority come from to interfere with election process?’” Barfield said. “The Constitution in Article 8, Section 1 states that ‘All executive powers, including implementation of and compliance with annual budgets of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina shall reside in a tribal chairperson who shall cause all laws of the tribe to be faithfully executed.’”
Barfield said that the elections board is “ultimately responsible” for carrying out an election.
“Tribal members are our first priority,” Barfield said. “As it stands with the (chairman’s) proposal, to conduct this type of election cannot be tolerated by this (elections) board or the tribe. If the tribal chairman can give the elections board a better expertise in running an election, we are willing to discuss this.”
On Monday it was announced by the elections board that the council elections that were to be held on Nov. 12 have been “suspended until further notice.” A meeting Monday morning between Barfield and Tribal Administrator Tony Hunt failed to produce a solution.
Brooks and Hunt contend that the election can be held for about $8,000.
Barfield said Thursday that the election process is now at a “standstill.” Not even absentee ballots can be processed until the issues the chairman raised with the Supreme Court are resolved, she said.
As of Thursday, no court hearing has been scheduled.
Bob Shiles works for Civitas Media as a staff writer for The Robesonian.