PEMBROKE — A group calling for the recall of Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. is hoping that past actions by the tribe’s Board of Elections will convince tribal administrative court judges that the Board of Elections should release the names, addresses and enrollment information of tribal members who cast ballots in the race for tribal chairman in November 2015.
Only those who voted in the November 2015 election, when Godwin defeated former Chairman Paul Brooks and three other candidates, can cast a ballot in a recall election. According to the tribe’s constitution, 10 percent of the total number who voted in the election must sign a petition in order for the recall process to continue. There were about 5,500 votes cast, meaning 550 signatures are needed.
The tribe’s constitution requires that the petition to begin a recall challenge in 100 words or less that the tribal official is guilty of “malfeasance in office, gross disregard for tribal law or culture, or open abuse of authority.”
Petitions have been circulated by a small group calling themselves “Seeing is Believing.” The group includes Bosco Locklear, the tribe’s former housing director who was fired by Godwin, and former tribal Chairman Paul Brooks, who Godwin defeated in the November 2015 election.
The petition alleges Godwin uses tribal security officers for personal security during funeral services; uses federal funds to pay Housing Department employees to travel on matters not related to housing; uses housing funds to pay dancers to dance at events outside tribal territory in violation of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development audit; and uses Housing Department staff to provide housing services at Campbell Soup, where his private business, Two Hawk Employment Service, has a contract to provide temporary employees. It is also alleged that under Godwin’s administration there has been a lot of “misappropriation of funds” and that “people are not getting the tribal services they deserve.”
On Tuesday, the Administrative Court heard a petition filed by Percell Jones Jr. asking that the Board of Elections be required to release the names, addresses and enrollment information for those who voted in 2015. The Board of Elections has denied Jones’ request, as well as a similar request by Eric Locklear, a longtime community activist.
Before the hearing began, a reporter for The Robesonian was ordered by tribal security to leave the Lumbee Housing Complex property on N.C. 711, better known as The Turtle, where the closed hearing was being held. The reporter requested to remain in the lobby but the request was denied.
It’s unclear who ordered the reporter to be removed from The Turtle, but former tribal housing director Bosco Locklear, who is working for the recall, said it was Godwin.
“They will all tell you it was the Court, but it was Harvey. I’ll bet money on that,” he said. “Security would only listen to Harvey. They won’t listen to the Court.”
Godwin was not at the hearing because he was attending the Committee of 100’s annual dinner where the keynote speaker was Gov. Roy Cooper.
Contacted by The Robesonian, Godwin emphatically denied having the reporter removed from tribal property. He said he could not comment on the recall effort because it was a legal matter.
Eric Locklear told the newspaper after he testified at the hearing that testimony he heard from Sheila Beck, the chairman of the tribe’s Board of Elections, leaves the court “no way out” of having to order the information released.
Locklear said that he had requested from the Elections Board similar information in 2013-14 in an effort to pursue a recall of then Chairman Paul Brooks, and had been given the requested information by the former chairman of the Elections Board. Beck, who was then a member of the board, testified Tuesday that she knew that the information requested had been released, said Locklear.
“Sheila confessed that she knew when I received the information,” he said. “There was no action taken against the board chairman at that time. Since it was done before, I don’t see any way that the court can’t not order the requested information given to the petitioner … .”
Contacted late Tuesday, however, Beck said that the information was provided to Locklear only by the board’s former chairman.
“The fact still remains,” Beck said, “that the board never voted to allow Eric Locklear or anyone else to have the voting list of those who voted in the 2012 election.”
Beck earlier Tuesday defended her board’s decision in not releasing the requested information about individual voters.
“Article 4 of our constitution gives clear and concise procedures for the recall process,” she said. “Also there is an ordinance that speaks to the constitutionality of records.”
Beck said she is following the constitution and tribal ordinances “by the book.”
“But if they think I am not doing the right thing, they are doing the right thing by challenging the issue in the court,” she said.
Beck said that the court made no ruling Tuesday concerning the release of the list of voters requested by the petitioner.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.