Las Vegas gaming consultant breaks ties with Lumbees

By Mike Hixenbaugh
Fayetteville Observer

PEMBROKE – Negative publicity and tribal backlash against the Lumbees’ contract with a Las Vegas gaming consultant pushed the Nevada firm to walk away from the agreement last week.

Tribal leaders said in a news release Friday the two parties had come to a mutual agreement to break the contract. But documents obtained Monday by The Fayetteville Observer indicate Lewin International initiated the divorce.

The Tribal Council voted Saturday to accept Lewin’s request to break the contract, which had given the consultant authority to handle the tribe’s push for federal recognition in exchange for a stake in future Lumbee economic ventures, including potential gambling.

Larry Lewin, the firm’s president, expressed a desire as early as mid-May to terminate the contract, according to a four-page letter from Lewin lawyer Bruce A. Fox. Continue reading “Las Vegas gaming consultant breaks ties with Lumbees”

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Former tribal administrator’s contract role raises concerns for Lumbees

By Mike Hixenbaugh
Fayetteville Observer

Several Lumbees say they are troubled by the alleged involvement of a former tribal government official in orchestrating the tribe’s agreement with a Las Vegas gaming consultant.

Secrecy surrounding the contract and former Tribal Administrator Leon Jacobs’ role in luring the Nevada firm to Robeson County have been the subject of quiet debate throughout Lumbee country in recent weeks.

Tribal leaders have declined to talk about the agreement, which gives Lewin International exclusive authority to handle the tribe’s push for federal recognition in Congress.

In exchange for those services, the firm is promised a stake in future Lumbee economic ventures, including gambling.

The contract has stirred passionate protests among tribal members since it was ratified earlier this year.

Multiple sources close to the tribal government told The Fayetteville Observer that Jacobs was a key player in negotiating the deal.

Jacobs resigned from the tribe more than three years ago. Continue reading “Former tribal administrator’s contract role raises concerns for Lumbees”

Lumbee controversy: Some say pact may derail recognition efforts

By Mike Hixenbaugh
Fayetteville Observer

PEMBROKE – A controversial contract between the Lumbees and a Las Vegas gaming consultant may be souring lawmakers against federal recognition, according to Indian policy experts in Washington.

Although North Carolina’s two senators say the legislation remains on track, policy experts who have followed the bill believe the tribe’s internal wrangling and apparent change of position on gambling makes the bill a tough sell in an election year.

Earlier this year, the Lumbee Tribe ratified a deal with Lewin International that gives the consultant the exclusive right to lobby for federal recognition and guarantees the firm a stake in future Lumbee economic ventures, including casinos.

The contract has stirred passionate protest among tribal members, many of whom fear a binding relationship with the consultant threatens the tribe’s century-old push for recognition. Continue reading “Lumbee controversy: Some say pact may derail recognition efforts”

Bragg declares homes where infants died safe, federal officials unsure

By Mike Hixenbaugh and Drew Brooks
The Fayetteville Observer

Fort Bragg officials say test results have ruled out the possibility that conditions inside homes on the installation contributed to the inexplicable deaths of 10 infants since 2007.

But a separate and ongoing probe into military housing by the Army Criminal Investigation Command and the Consumer Product Safety Commission has yet to eliminate any environmental factors in the deaths.

Despite the ongoing probe, officials with Fort Bragg and Picerne Military Housing declared Tuesday that the houses where infants died are safe. Continue reading “Bragg declares homes where infants died safe, federal officials unsure”

Bragg families want answers in infant deaths

By Mike Hixenbaugh
The Fayetteville Observer

Jay’Vair Pollard was a little more than 2 months old when he quit breathing April 15, 2009. The baby died that morning while sleeping in his mother’s arms at their home on Fort Bragg.

The boy’s grandmother, Lori Gray, said she had never cried so hard in her life.

That was until three months later, when another of her grandchildren, 7-month-old Ka’Mya Frey, died while taking a nap in the same home on the military post. The infant was standing in her crib and smiling just hours before her mother, Bianca Outlaw, found the baby cold and lifeless lying face-up on the mattress.

“That was it for me,” Gray said Wednesday. “I fell completely apart after that. I’ve never lost a child, but losing a grandchild is just as bad I think, and now I’ve lost two.”

Jay’Vair and Ka’Mya are among 10 infants who have died suddenly and without warning inside military housing units on Fort Bragg since January 2007. Continue reading “Bragg families want answers in infant deaths”

Observer analysis: Baby deaths in military towns rise

By Mike Hixenbaugh
The Fayetteville Observer

The rate of sudden and unexplained infant deaths in two major North Carolina military communities jumped to nearly twice the national average during the five years after the Iraq war began.

The spike in inexplicable infant deaths in Cumberland and Onslow counties – the homes of Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune – occurred during a period when the statewide rate of such fatalities held steady, according to a Fayetteville Observer analysis of North Carolina birth and death records. Continue reading “Observer analysis: Baby deaths in military towns rise”

The rise and fall of Ray Mulkey

By Mike Hixenbaugh
The Fayetteville Observer

He was memorialized as an astute businessman who used his riches to entertain friends, impress young women and care for his family.

But on the day an associate found Ray Mulkey Jr. slumped over a steering wheel in North Myrtle Beach this summer, he was broke and alone.

Mulkey killed himself days after rewriting his will and months after borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars from friends, business partners and the bank he helped start some 10 years ago.

In place of the image of a respected businessman, Mulkey, 63, left behind at least $42 million in debts and few assets to repay them. Continue reading “The rise and fall of Ray Mulkey”