Council threatens to shut down Lumbee tribal government over budget impasse

Published: July 24, 2013

By Ali Rockett
Staff writer for

PEMBROKE, NC – The Lumbee Tribal Council is threatening to shut down its government if the administration continues refusing to share financial information with the council.

The council last week requested a ledger of all checks written since fiscal 2012 after discovering that Chairman Paul Brooks had purchased land beside a Lumberton golf course.

brooksBrooks refused to hand over the ledger identifying the names of who the checks were made out, sending a letter to the council saying it would break the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The council met again Tuesday to discuss the matter and the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, and it once again met with resistance from the administration in requests for financial information.

Councilwoman Louise Mitchell said the council was entitled by law to itemized information, including the breakdown of employees’ salaries by job title, equipment and furniture to be purchased, travel expenditures, and legal and consultant services.

Mitchell said the information should have been provided before the meeting, but was not.

Councilwoman Danita Locklear made a motion that the council adjourn budget discussions until all requested financial information has been revealed to the council.

If not done in a timely manner, Locklear said, the council should contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which allocates nearly 90 percent, or about $12 million, of the tribe’s annual budget.

Mitchell’s motion received unanimous support.

“Why are we wasting our time?” Councilman Terry Campbell said. “I say, ‘No ledger. No budget.’ I don’t intend to come to another meeting and ask questions that people already have the answers to.”

Tribal administrator Tony Hunt told the council that the land at Pine Crest Village, which, according to deed records, was purchased for $36,000 by Lumbee Land Development, was not purchased with funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but rather with money from a separate economic development venture.

It was further revealed during the meeting that Brooks submitted the tribe’s Indian Housing Plan, a pre-budget of sorts, to HUD without its approval or authorization.

Hunt, who is tasked with day-to-day operations of the tribe, said the plan had to be submitted by July 18, or the tribe risked jeopardizing its nearly $12 million allocation for the ensuing fiscal year.

Councilwoman Mitchell said the council has to pass a resolution authorizing Brooks to send the plan, which never happened.

Hunt said Brooks has the authority to submit it himself.

In the plan, Brooks requests HUD’s approval for an expenditure of $800,000 for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, Hunt said after being questioned by the council. The center is to be managed by Brooks’ brother.

Council members said last week that Brooks had asked the council to approve the expenditure in the current year’s budget. They denied the request.

The council also questioned Hunt about the personal use of tribal vehicles. Hunt said he, Brooks and a member of the maintenance staff drive vehicles home. Hunt said he used his own car for personal use.
Tribal Councilmen Larry Chavis said he has seen Brooks driving his tribal vehicle “anywhere and everywhere.”

“The chairman is using this as his personal piggy bank,” said McDuffie Cummings, the council’s finance committee chairman. “It’s got to stop. If we don’t get that ledger, we will not fund this Indian Housing Plan.”

Although there was no opposition to getting the requested information, not all council members were on board with the idea of closing the Turtle, as the tribe is known.

“I would never go along with shutting this tribe down,” Councilman Terry Hunt said. “That wouldn’t hurt us or the administration. That hurts our people.”

Staff writer Ali Rockett can be reached at or 910-486-3528.

Lumbee Tribal Council probes land purchase by Chairman Brooks

By Ali Rockett Staff writer


Jul 23, 2013



PEMBROKE, NC – Lumbee Tribal Council members are questioning the tribal chairman about the purchase of land near a Lumberton golf course.

The tribe uses federal money to buy land and build houses for its members. But council members say they don’t know what the lot in Pine Crest Village subdivision will be used for, and they say they didn’t authorize its purchase.

After the issue came up during a Thursday meeting, the council gave Chairman Paul Brooks until Friday at 5 p.m. to hand over a check registry from the past two fiscal years. Brooks has refused to turn over the registry. Council members plan to meet today to follow up on the matter.

Tax and deed records from April show that Lumbee Land Development Inc. purchased a lot in the subdivision for $36,000. Brooks is listed as the registered agent for Lumbee Land Development, according to the documents filed with the Secretary of State.

Council members said they believe the land was too expensive for most tribe members. More than 1,000 people are on a waiting list for housing services, and a typical land purchase for a home built by the tribe is around $10,000.

Lumbee Land Development has been involved in other tribal housing matters, deeds show. Several transactions and loan documents for land in the Arrowpoint neighborhood in Pembroke were filed with the Robeson County Register of Deeds between 2009 and 2011.

Brooks has not returned calls seeking comment on this story. He has said previously that he has the authority as chairman to make purchases for the tribe using money that’s budgeted for housing. Tribal Council members say they are supposed to authorize any expenses over $5,000. During a council meeting Thursday, members accused Brooks of spending money that the council had not authorized in its budget. Brooks didn’t attend the meeting.

Councilman Terry Collins said Brooks had requested $800,000 for a drug rehabilitation center to be run by his brother. The council denied the request, Collins said.

Collins said council members have questions about how tribal money is spent.

The council requested the records of all checks written since Oct. 1, 2011.

McDuffie Cummings, finance committee chairman, said the Tribal Council has a right to see that money is spent in accordance with the budget and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines.

“If it’s not in the budget, it shouldn’t be in the checks,” he said. “The (tribe’s) Supreme Court ruled that we do not have the right to tell him who to spend the money with. But the ruling was very clear that we do have the right to oversight.”

Tribal Administrator Tony Hunt declined to comment for this story on the land purchase in Pine Crest Village. He told the council Friday that Brooks would not release the full ledger because doing so could break privacy laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA. Hunt said he sent a letter to the council elaborating on the privacy laws.

Hunt gave the council an 800-page redacted ledger Thursday before the council’s monthly meeting.

Cummings said it included the amounts of checks written, the account billed and whether it was for “services” or “payroll.” Cummings said the council wanted documentation of who was receiving money. He said the council can check to make sure the vendors are credible and doing work that is budgeted.

Council members say they’re trying to have more oversight of tribal finances since the resignation of Tribal Chairman Purnell Swett in 2011. A report from HUD said Swett misspent about $115,000 of the more than $14 million in federal money the tribe received that year.

The tribe is expected to receive about $12 million for the fiscal year beginning in October. Its total budget this year is more than $24 million.

The council meets today to discuss the new budget. Members also said they plan to take some action against Brooks for not sharing the financial records.

Staff writer Ali Rockett can be reached at or 910-486-3528.