By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Last month, Tribal Council voted 8-3 to place the Tribal Governmental Affairs budget under their budget – monies that were previously located in the Executive Office’s budget. Twenty-nine days after that vote (March 1), Principal Chief Patrick Lambert vetoed the legislation on Wednesday, March 30 which led to a hearing on the veto during the Budget Council session on Tuesday, April 5.
After brief discussion on Tuesday, the veto was upheld by a weighted vote of 62-38. The following voted to override the veto: Chairman Bill Taylor, Vice Chairman Brandon Jones, Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha, Yellowhill Rep. B. Ensley, Birdtown Rep. Travis Smith, Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose and Yellowhill Rep. Anita Lossiah. Voting to uphold the veto were: Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke, Painttown Rep. Marie Junaluska, Wolfetown Rep. Bo Crowe, Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy and Big Cove Rep. Richard French.
Chief Lambert’s veto letter was read during the hearing in which he wrote, “This resolution cannot even be carried out as it is written. There does not exist a Tribal Governmental Affairs line item that can be moved. There does exist a Governmental Affairs budget, but not a line item. The request to move a line item that does not exist is not possible so the intent of the resolution cannot be carried out.”
The letter continued, “More importantly, this resolution represents a breakdown in the working relationship between our branches caused by a disgruntled minority. We need to be working to move our Tribe forward instead of revising budget issues in an effort to create a turf battle.”
Rep. Saunooke called for policies and procedures to be put in place with regard to the monies that she feels should be spent with input from all tribal leaders. “This should be a joint effort with the executive and legislative and with the lobbyists, and this is not happening people, and our public is really upset with all of us.”
Early on in the discussion, there was some confusion as to whether further debate would be allowed on the issue. Chairman Taylor stated that it was Council’s tradition when dealing with vetoed legislation to hear the veto letter and then take a vote to either uphold or override the veto. “The debate happened on the floor on March 1. I’m just going by the way we’ve always handled vetoes.”
Chief Lambert disagreed, “We’ve already gotten into discussion here, and I think it needs to be debated out.”
Rep. McCoy agreed with Chief Lambert and told Chairman Taylor, “You’re wrong. We have discussed veto issues in the past when the former Chief was in here. I remember me and him got in a catfight right here over a veto. We overrode it, but we got in a catfight over it because we were allowed to discuss it.”
The vote was taken without further discussion prior.
Following the vote, Rep. Wachacha stated, “This budget was moved under the Council back two terms ago. Mike Parker made the move. There was a second. But, it was never placed into Council’s line item, and that was the argument I placed the last time we talked about this resolution. The resolution here basically just made it redundant.”
He then reiterated what he said during the March 1 debate and commented that all tribal leaders need to sit down and figure out political donations together. “This has to stop between the two bodies of government. At any point, we need to realize what the real threats are and quit fighting amongst each other.”
Rep. Ensley said the need to get going on donations is real and urgent. “It bothers me that we haven’t cut those checks yet, because without the help that we have in D.C. and in Raleigh, we wouldn’t be where we’re at today. We’ve got some very hard fights ahead of us with the Lumbees, the Catawbas, everything, our gaming rights, ramp issues, and without these people helping us, we can’t do anything. We need to iron this out and get some checks cut to the people who’ve helped us.”
Chief Lambert commented, “I’ve got a solution to this problem, but yet, there’s four members of this Tribal Council that haven’t stepped foot in my office in months. The communication here is obviously lacking.”
Speaking of where the governmental affairs budget is now he said, “We all know that old resolutions get overridden by new resolutions or ordinances. A new resolution was passed in October (2015). We had a clear discussion on that. I agreed to remove three positions out of my budget in order to keep it where it was because we were going to have mutual discussions.”
He added, “If Council wants to create a line item in their budget for these matters, create a line item. Why attack my office and this body?”
Chief Lambert ended by saying that “personal vendettas” and “personal gripes” need to end and both bodies, executive and legislative, truly need to work together.