Lumbee speaker, chairman agree to work together

Lumberton, North Caroloina (AP) March 2011

Lumbee leaders said that they’ve agreed to work together on some financial issues, including the contract for the tribal administrator.

In a news release, Tribal Chairman Purnell Swett says he’s agreed to share the contract for the tribal administrator with the council, ending at least part of the dispute between the executive and legislative branches of the Lumbee leadership.

The Fayetteville Observer reported that the council’s finance committee voted unanimously to fire the administrator and to ask the federal government to freeze funding for the housing program. Those recommendations came in response to Swett’s refusal to share details of executive spending decisions. The newspaper said those proposals would amount to a temporary shutdown of the tribal government.

“The speaker and I have come to terms in which we believe that the two branches can work to handle the matters that have arisen internally without the assistance of HUD,” Swett said.

Tribal Council members complained that they haven’t seen the written contract awarded last spring to administrator Rose Marie Lowry-Townsend and that the administration won’t even provide the names of consultants that the tribe has hired. Swett had refused again last week to release the spending information during the finance committee meeting, saying the personnel contracts are confidential and not subject to review by Tribal Council members.

That runs counter to a ruling last month from the Lumbee Supreme Court, which said in a unanimous decision that the Tribal Council has implicit constitutional authority to review all tribal contracts.

“Transparency and accountability are more crucial now, more than ever,” Tribal Speaker Steve Sampson said last week.

The 21 members of the finance committee also make up the Tribal Council, which holds its regular meeting March 24.