Special to The Exchange
The Lumbee Tribe has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on some issues raised in a recent audit, but plans to appeal two findings that it must pay back $88,320 that HUD says was spent in violation of federal regulations.
After review of the tribe’s response to eight findings during an unannounced on-site review of tribal finances during March, HUD’s Eastern Woodlands Office of Native American Programs said the tribe had to pay the federal government back $114,500 in housing money that the agency originally cited as being used inappropriately. According to the agency’s final monitoring report released late last week, three of the eight findings have been closed, while the remaining findings in the audit will remain open “until appropriate corrective actions have been implemented and/or completed.”
“While I am glad that we were able to resolve some of these issues with HUD, it is my intent to file an appeal for the remaining findings,” Tribal Chairwoman Sharon Hunt said in a statement. “I did, however, want to be forthcoming, as I pledged, and make the report available. I would be happy to discuss the report more in depth after we have filed the appeal.”
According to the report, after considering the response of tribal officials to each finding, HUD is reducing the amount it originally ordered the tribe to pay back in some areas, including:
— Consulting fees for former Tribal Administrator Rose Marie Lowry-Townsend reduced from $30,312 to $24,409. Her services had not been obtained under proper procurement policies and the $110 per hour fee she was paid exceeded the $74.76 per hour currently permitted by HUD regulations.
— Consulting contracts with Tiber Creek Associates of Capital Hill Inc. reduced from $69,295 to $61,795. The reduction reflects a credit in the amount of $7,500 for funds reimbursed from Lumbee Land Development account for federal recognition services.
— Travel expenses of $14,950 for an economic development training conference in Las Vegas. No reimbursement is being required since HUD had allowed housing money to be used for this conference in previous years. The tribe, however, will still have to pay back $2,117 for other travel expenses that exceeded the federal per diem payment allowed.
According to the report, signed by Kevin Fitzgibbons, administrator of the Eastern Woodlands Office, the audit was conducted March 29 and March 30 after a series of complaints and concerns were raised about the tribe’s management of funds received under the federal Indian Housing Block Grant program. The Lumbee Tribe received about $14.251 million for housing programs in 2010, according to the report.
“The purpose of the review was to determine if the allegations contained in various complaints regarding housing operations of the LTNC … could be substantiated,” the report says.
According to the report, the review was limited to the specific allegations made by individuals. Allegations included: a tribal administrator had been hired by the tribal chairman at a salary not approved by the Tribal Council; prior to the hiring of Rose Marie Lowry Townsend as tribal administrator she was a consultant for the tribe at $1,000 a day; an excessive amount of Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act money was being spent for consulting services; members of the Tribal Council were being reimbursed for unnecessary and unreasonable travel expenses; office space for the Veterans Affairs Office at the Angel Exchange.was rented at an unreasonable per-square-foot cost. Other allegations included that one Tribal Council member, Terry Campbell was allowed to bid on and receive an inordinate number of rehabilitation contracts without competition, and that one contractor, Metcon Inc., of Pembroke, was awarded new construction contracts without competition.
The Veterans Affairs Office is no longer an issue because the office has been relocated to Union Chapel Road. Also, HUD found no evidence to substantiate the allegations made against Terry Campbell or Metcon.
The Eastern Woodlands Office issued its draft monitoring report that provided the tribe 30 days to respond to its findings on May 11. The tribe provided a response letter and supporting documentation for its position and proposed corrective actions for each finding on June 9.
According to the report, the tribe now has 30 days to take any corrective actions and pay back funds HUD considers to have been spent in ways not in compliance with federal regulations.