Tribal Council nixes resolution blaming Godwin, Porter

By Bob Shiles -

Anita Hammonds Blanks

PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribal Council on Thursday rejected a resolution to reprimand the tribe’s chairman, administrator, and finance director for using budgeted federal housing money for purposes not approved by the council.

One council member blamed Eric Locklear, a vocal critic of the tribe who uses social media and letters to the editor to The Robesonian to express his views, for the resolution’s defeat.

The vote was 14 against the resolution and five in favor, with one council member abstaining and another absent when the vote was taken.

Locklear obtained a copy of the proposed resolution and put it on Facebook, according to Anita Hammonds Blanks, chairperson of the council’s Finance Committee. The Finance Committee put together the resolution, reviewed the document, and voted to bring it before the tribe’s full 21-member council.

“If he (Locklear) wants to blame anyone for this resolution not passing he should blame himself,” Hammonds Blanks said after the meeting. “We had the votes to pass it before it was made public. Just the way things were done, a lot of the council members who had supported the resolution turned around and voted against it. All seven of the Finance Committee members in committee had voted in favor of the resolution, but tonight I was the only one of the seven Finance Committee members to vote for the resolution.”

Locklear was present at Thursday’s meeting, but declined to comment on the resolution during the public comment period.

In the resolution, Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr., Tribal Administrator Freda Porter, and Sharon Bell, the tribe’s finance director, were said to have misused $84,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to clean up the Lumbee Cultural Center, which was damaged by Hurricane Matthew and the resulting flooding. The cleanup cost was an expense administrators planned to seek reimbursement for from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Hammonds Blanks said she was informed by the tribal administration that FEMA reimbursed the tribe for the $84,000 for cleanup and landscape work at the Cultural Center on May 10.

According to the tribe’s constitution, the council is responsible for approving, enacting and amending the annual budget. The constitution also grants to the council the fiduciary responsibility to ensure compliance with all program funding and allocations.

Hammonds Blanks said that while the resolution did not pass, she believes it served a purpose.

“I think they (administration) got the message,” she said. “They should bring all issues to the council.”

In other business, council members on Thursday:

— Recognized 25 American Indian high school and college students who were the first group to be awarded scholarships to pursue higher education as part of the tribe’s new scholarship program. Each student received a scholarship valued at $500. They were chosen from 82 applicants.

— Reappointed Larece Hunt to another three-year term on the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs.

— Reappointed Jerl Locklear to another three-year term on the N.C. Indian Housing Authority.

— Heard a report from Freda Porter concerning the 2017 Lumbee Nation Economic Summit. The summit will be held Tuesday and Wednesday on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

— Passed a resolution regulating the inspection and maintenance of transitional homes owned by the tribe.

— Passed a resolution supporting Tribal Diagnostics, an American Indian-owned company, to provide laboratory services to local health providers within Lumbee tribal territories.

Anita Hammonds Blanks Hammonds Blanks

By Bob Shiles

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

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