By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
Tribal Council Chairman Bill Taylor called the regular session meeting on Thursday, Feb. 2 to order and prayer was offered by EBCI Beloved Woman Myrtle Driver.
The Chairman and Tribal Council reviewed the agenda and made modifications of the agenda for the day’s proceedings. Seven items were removed off the agenda. One item was removed and tabled.
During the time allowed for announcements, items brought up by Tribal Council members included some discussion regarding a need to revamp the board of directors for the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, potential withdrawing participation in lending institutions who support the Dakota Access Pipeline, the potential temporary use of the old Cherokee Fun Park site for an organized flea market, and a recommendation that the Tribal Council initiate cleaning up the Cherokee Code.
Vice Chief Richard G. Sneed gave an update on the Tribal census that needs to be taken. He received all the information that had been requested from the BIA a few weeks ago and is sending that information to the United States Census Bureau so that they may give us an estimate on cost of conducting a tribal census. He also discussed that a recent trip emphasized to him the opportunity that convention business could be for the Tribe.
Principal Chief Lambert announced that the FBI agents were in the process of removing possible evidence in their investigation of Qualla Housing Authority (QHA). He indicated that he would bring in emergency legislation to ensure the operations of QHA. He also announced that he is scheduling a “hospital summit” to address some questions that the community has about care and operations and a meeting to further discuss the draft constitution that he has made public. Chief Lambert stated he is working on a system to pay the power bills of all tribal elders.
During his time for announcements, Tribal Council Vice Chairman Brandon Jones called for the Council to direct their legal counsel, Carolyn West, to draft legislation to address the items previously released by Tribal Council from an Office of Internal Audit report. This was presented as a motion from Vice Chairman Jones and seconded by Birdtown Rep. Travis Smith. Chief Lambert called for a like measure to call for impeachment of the Tribal Council and Vice Chief. No action was taken on his recommendation. Tribal Council voted to approve the motion to take the action, which also instructed West to have the requested resolution before the end of the session for a vote.
Immediately following the vote, Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe motioned to have the Executive Office and Tribal Council investigated for their actions over the past ten years and for the legislation to do so be brought before Tribal Council during the session. Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose seconded and the Tribal Council voted unanimously to proceed.
A resolution to appoint Shirley Jackson Oswalt, of the Snowbird Community, to the title of Beloved Woman of the Cherokee was unanimously voted for. Several community members, Council members, and Executive Office spoke in favor of her appointment. She was presented a Pendleton blanket by Vice Chairman Jones and Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha on behalf of EBCI.
TERO brought a request to amend language in the law that governs their office as previously discussed in an earlier work session. The request was amended to eliminate a 1.75 percent fee on vendors awarded jobs in excess of $100,000. The resolution was then passed by Tribal Council.
Jacob Reed and John Parker were then approved by Tribal Council to be reappointed to the EBCI Investment Committee.
Chief Lambert nominated Kirk G. Saunooke for the office of Chief Justice of the Cherokee Supreme Court. There was some debate concerning a previous resolution brought to Tribal Council that specified an election for the Supreme Court and how it would affect the appointment if the Tribe institutes an election. After debate and modification of a timeframe for service, the Tribal Council voted to accept the nomination of Saunooke. There was a swearing-in immediately after the vote.
Later in the session, Chairman Taylor announced that the resolution that Vice Chairman Jones had requested to be drawn up by the legislative legal counsel was ready and asked the Council to vote to hear it. Nine of the twelve representatives voted in favor, with Big Cove Reps. Richard French and Teresa McCoy and Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke voting against.
The clerks read the resolution into the record as follows:
“Cherokee Council House, Cherokee, North Carolina, February 2, 2017,Resolution 502-2017
Whereas,the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council has the authority to impeach any EBCI officer who violates or is guilty of any offense, making him ineligible to hold said office, by a two-thirds vote of Tribal Council, Charter and Governing Document of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Section 22 October 8, 1986, Section 1 outlining EBCI officers,
Whereas the EBCI Tribal Council is vested with full power to enforce obedience to such laws and regulations as may be enacted at Section 23,
Whereas on January 18, 2017, the Office of Internal Audit completed Tribal Council’s requested investigation and submitted the findings to the EBCI Tribal Council,
Whereas the Office of Internal Audit determined that Patrick H. Lambert solely operated the EBCI’s day-to-day duties by solely executing personnel actions requiring Executive Committee approval without the knowledge or input of the Vice Chief; by failing to a conduct a formal interview and reference check requirements, authorizing a salary before budget approval, assigning an interim manager while manager position remained filled, pay raises authorized without documented justification and changing the organizational structure without Tribal Council approval. Office of Internal Audit, Human Resources Action Investigation 2017,
Whereas the Office of Internal Audit found Patrick H. Lambert’s actions or inactions violated the Charter and Governing Document, and the personnel policies and procedures of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians adopted by EBCI Tribal Council Ordinance 154-2012 and codified in the Cherokee Code, Chapter 96,
Whereas the Office of Internal Audit also determined Patrick H. Lambert executed contracts without Business Committee approval and allowed contract expenditures to exceed contract value, Office of Internal Audit Tribal Contracts Investigation 2017,
Whereas the Office of Internal Audit found Patrick H. Lambert’s actions violated the Cherokee Code, Section 117-19, EBCI Fiscal Management Policies and Procedures, and the Office of the Attorney General Contract Policies and Procedures,
Whereas EBCI Tribal Council possesses sole authority to direct the management and control of all property, either real or personal, belonging to the EBCI, including EBCI finances, Charter and Governing Documents, Section 16 and 20,
Whereas, in order to prevent further Charter and Code violations and to protect the assets and property, both real and personal, belonging to the EBCI, Patrick H. Lambert needs to be restricted in his authority and access to EBCI resources including all real and personal property and the ability to bind EBCI to any agreements during the impeachment process.
Whereas suspending Patrick H. Lambert from office pending impeachment proceedings to insure that no further Charter and Code violations and to protect EBCI property both real and personal are in the best interest of EBCI and EBCI members
Now therefore be it resolved by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in a Council assembled in which a quorum is present, the EBCI Tribal Council directs articles of impeachment for Patrick H. Lambert be prepared and submitted for approval,
Be it further resolved the EBCI Tribal Council retain a special impeachment prosecutor to present evidence of charges contained in the articles of impeachment,
Be it further resolved that Patrick H. Lambert shall be permitted to retain legal counsel at his own expense to present defense and answers to the charges contained in the articles of impeachment at a time designated by the EBCI Tribal Council,
Be it further resolved, that Patrick H. Lambert is suspended from office pending the conclusion of the articles of impeachment hearing and that the duly elected Vice Chief, Richard Sneed will act as Chief,
Be it further resolved, that Patrick H. Lambert shall return all EBCI property to the Vice Chief, pending the outcome of the impeachment proceedings,
Be it further resolved, the EBCI Tribal Council shall have a further hearing pursuant to Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council Resolution 1095-2002,
Be it further resolved, that because Patrick H. Lambert has a conflict of interest in this matter, the Vice Chief is authorized to ratify this resolution and signature authority on behalf of EBCi for any other documents regarding this resolution as may be required.
Be it finally resolved that any resolutions in conflict with this resolution are rescinded and the Vice Chief shall carry out the intent of this resolution.
Submitted by Vice Chairman Jones.”
Near the end of the reading, several members of the audience who had gathered in anticipation of the resolution being put before Council, vocally expressed their opinion of the proposal. Chairman Taylor attempted to clear the chamber, instructing two different officers to do so. Chief Lambert instructed them to not attempt to clear the chamber. There was a brief debate as to who was in charge of the chamber and ultimately, the members of the audience remained.
Vice Chairman Jones motioned to pass the resolution and Rep. Smith seconded. Yellowhill Rep. B. Ensley called the question. Vice Chairman Jones stated that he initiated this with the goal of determining if violations had taken place and as a final resolution to “one and for all” put these issues behind the Tribe.
During discussion after the reading, several tribal members voiced their opinions of the resolution. Chief Lambert expressed his concern and insistence that he has not done anything to warrant this action. He said that this was a personal issue, not a legal issue. Chief lambert stated several alternative remedies including special elections and counter impeachment for Tribal Council members and the Vice Chief. He also said he thought of resignation.
EBCI Attorney General Danny Davis addressed Tribal Council, stating he was speaking as the Tribe’s attorney, “not the Tribal Council’s or Chief’s”. He said he wanted to point out that there is nothing in tribal law that he could see that would allow the Tribal Council to take the authority of a sitting Chief prior to impeachment. Vice Chairman Jones amended the original language to strike all sections pertaining to removing the Chief prior to the outcome of impeachment process. Davis also recommended that the language stating that the Chief pay for his own legal counsel, since in previous proceedings of this nature, the Tribe provided for payment.
After the resolution was amended, two motions were put forth by Council members; a move to kill and a move to pass. Reps. French, McCoy and Saunooke voted to kill the resolution with the remainder of Council voting to pass.
Rep. Crowe’s legislation, mentioned earlier in the session, regarding an investigation into the actions of all employees and elected officials of EBCI over the past decade, was then passed unanimously. The legislation names the Office of Internal Audit to conduct the investigation.
Chief Lambert brought in an emergency resolution to move the operations of the Qualla Housing Authority to the Office of Housing and Community Development until the issues under investigation by the FBI are resolved. He stated with many of the QHA’s records, files and computers confiscated by federal agents, that community services would suffer without the move. After discussion, the Tribal Council voted to table the legislation.
The entire video record of the session is available at www.ebci.com.