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Feds investigate Lumbee travel budget

Posted July 24, 2008

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— Federal authorities are looking into the travel expenses of the Lumbee Tribal Council, who have spent thousands of dollars in recent months on trips to conferences.

A WRAL investigation last month showed council members spending money from the tribe's annual housing allocation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on travel while some Lumbee live in squalor.

Credit card receipts showed 18 of the 21council members traveled to Hawaii last fall and stayed at a four-star resort on Waikiki Beach. Council members also traveled to Albuquerque, N.M., San Antonio, Texas, and Alaska in the past year, and last month they shifted $45,000 into their travel budget to help pay for a trip to Reno, Nev.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole sent information to the U.S. Attorney's Office several months ago to investigate the Lumbee housing situation, and she looked into the matter again after the WRAL story aired.

In a written statement to WRAL, a Dole spokeswoman said HUD investigators found no wrongdoing in the tribal council's spending.

"Earlier this month, HUD told Sen. Dole's office that an investigation into this matter was conducted and there was no evidence of criminal conduct and no basis for civil or administrative action," the statement said.

Randy Lewis, a Lumbee activist who has led protests against tribal officials' handling of federal housing dollars, said he has been interviewed by FBI agents about the tribe use of money.

Neither the FBI nor the U.S. Attorney's Office would confirm or deny any investigation of the tribe.

Tribal leaders refused to answer questions from WRAL Thursday unless they were e-mailed in advance.

A spokesman for the tribal council did say the Lumbees enacted a travel policy a couple of months ago. But one council member, who asked to remain anonymous, said it doesn't limit the number of people who can travel or the number of trips they can take.

Meanwhile, some Lumbees continue to live in substandard housing.

HUD recently cut the annual housing grant to the Lumbees from $13 million to $11.3 million. The tribe then shut down its housing rehabilitation program, with more than 1,000 tribal members on the waiting list for assistance.

"There are no houses being repaired," Lewis said.

Rachel Maynor, 74, lives in a century-old house near St. Pauls that leaks during rainstorms and lacks a bathroom. She said she has asked tribal leaders for years to provide her with a better place to live – even a used mobile home.

"They haven't done anything. Nobody has been out here. Nobody's called me," Maynor said. "All I want is something to keep the wind and the rain out of my house, and a bathroom."

But that doesn't mean end of story: Tribal members say other agencies -- including the F-B-I -- have their own investigation underway.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • whatusay Jul 25, 2008

    tchavis....the Lumbee's never lived on a reservation. I know that you are probably Lumbee, but you lack knowledge in your own history.

  • whatusay Jul 25, 2008

    As long as the tribe has the money rolling in they will squander it. They could care less about the welfare of the people they are supposed to represent. Let the good times roll, as long as the money lasts.

  • RonnieR Jul 25, 2008

    Well, they're not a real tribe, so they don't get the benefits other Indians get. Mainly this is a reservation, an Indian Agent and BIA to take care of all their needs. So they're kinda like left to fend for themselves with very little help from their Great White Father.

  • oldschooltarheel Jul 25, 2008

    just following the Easley's lead into modern government - enrich yourself & do what to the constituents?

  • North Wake Dad Jul 25, 2008

    From Wikipedia. Not the Lumbees, I know, but should be illustrative to the just-get-over-it crowd. Being packed up and put somewhere in any other context is called internment.

    "Unemployment on the Reservation hovers around 20% and 49% live below the Federal poverty level.[1] Adolescent suicide is four times the national average. Many of the families have no electricity, telephone, running water, or sewer. Many families use wood stoves to heat their homes. The population on Pine Ridge has among the shortest life expectancies of any group in the Western Hemisphere: approximately 47 years for males and in the low 50s for females. The infant mortality rate is five times the United States national average." [snip]

  • Tired_of_LIBERALS Jul 25, 2008

    Yeah the indians were wronged long ago. THAT WAS LONG AGO! The current AMERICANS are not owed anything... They need to grow up and get on with life!

  • schit Jul 25, 2008

    haggis basher: You are out of the loop.

    If you knew your history you would know Native American Indians are AMERICAN. For you to imply anything less is disrespectful. Also the reason Native American reservations get federal monies is because the so called government in those days came and FORCED them to leave their land and homes. Better yet known today as eminent domain. They were forced to live on so called reservations in the heart lands most of which are desert. The government owes them. Now that being said I do not agree with the Lumbee situation at all.

  • haggis basher Jul 25, 2008

    The whole Tribal nonsense should end. If they are Americans then they get treated the same as everyone else, If not they don't get any Federal Money. Their ancestors lost the war a long, long time ago.....time to get over it and join the real world. In the long run they will be a lot better off as fellow Americans (who all came from their own equally valid cultures and countries) than as perpetual victims living in the past.

  • HappyGirl08 Jul 25, 2008

    "Rachel Maynor, 74, lives in a century-old house near St. Pauls that leaks during rainstorms and lacks a bathroom. She said she has asked tribal leaders for years to provide her with a better place to live – even a used mobile home"

    Why hasn't this woman done something on her own to improve her position? I understand poverty but there is no excuse for this. Do not tell me you live in such a horrible home and you are just going to sit back and expect someone else to "provide you with a better place to live." That's total carp!

  • hometechnc Jul 25, 2008

    So, let me get this straight...

    HUD found no wrong doing with Tribal Council members spending taxpayer (our), money on 4-Star trips to Hawaii and things....

    and Senator Elizabeth Dole was okay with this ??? ....and we just keep re-electing these people ?????

    So really, it's our fault!