By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
It was a busy day for impeachment-related proceedings on Friday, April 21 – the day after the original date set for the Impeachment Hearing before several court motions delayed the event. In an order filed on Friday night, Acting Chief Justice Brenda Toineeta Pipestem granted a writ of certiorari and a motion for stay (CSC-17-03 Petition for Writ of Certiorari Granted Motion for Stay Granted Notice of Expedited Scheduling Order and Hearing Date). “The Court, under Rule 62(f) of the NC Rules of Civil Procedure, extends the stay over the impeachment proceedings that are currently pending before the Tribal Council until the completion of proceedings in this court and an Order is issued.”
Those arguments will occur on Tuesday, May 9 at 10am at the Tribal Courthouse.
Two days earlier, on Wednesday, April 19, Tribal Council approved Res. No. 562 (2017) whereby they amended the Impeachment Hearing Date to Tuesday, May 2 – a date that is now invalid due to Acting Chief Justice Pipestem’s ruling.
A press release by Tribal Council on April 19, which appeared on their official Facebook page, states in part, “Further articles of impeachment can be added at a later date as well as potential criminal charges as the investigation continues. Political appointees in the administration have offered evidence which is part of the on-going investigation. Additional information has been provided to the United States Attorney’s office for consideration.”
So, as of this printing, there is not an official date for the Impeachment Proceedings against Principal Chief Patrick Lambert.
Earlier on the morning of Friday, April 21 during a special called session, Tribal Council added several more provisions (Articles VIII – XII) to the Articles of Impeachment (Amended Articles of Impeachment) against Chief Lambert.
In documents obtained from Tribal Council, Articles of Impeachment Article VIII alleges that Chief Lambert violated Cherokee Code Section 14-70.30 that states, “It shall be unlawful to ask for, give or accept any money, goods, right in action, property, thing of value or advantage, present or prospective, or any promise or undertaking, given with a wrongful or corrupt intent to influence unlawfully the person to whom it is given.”
That Article alleges that during a meeting on Aug. 3, 2016 between Chief Lambert, Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose and Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe, “Mr. Lambert told Councilman Rose and Councilman Crowe that he was upset with TERO because they removed him from the TERO list. Mr. Lambert also stated that the reason he asked for the meeting was to inform them that was willing to allow them to appoint a member from their community to the TERO Commission. However, in return Mr. Lambert wanted them to withdraw or table the resolution with the BIA Realty (Resolution No. 49 – 2015). Councilman Crowe immediately stated that they don’t work like that and are not going to start. Both Councilman Crowe and Councilman Rose left the meeting. They did not withdraw Resolution No. 49 – 2015).”
Article IX alleges that Chief Lambert “restricted the Office of Internal Audit’s full, free and unrestricted access to Tribal financial records.”
Article X alleges that Chief Lambert violated Cherokee Code Section 14-70.14(a) for his refusal to sign a contract and release a check to R. Daniel Boyce, the attorney chosen by Tribal Council to serve as the Special Impeachment Prosecutor.
Article XI alleges that Chief Lambert violated Section 22 of the Charter and Governing Document of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for holding the Grand Council meeting on Tuesday, April 18 where votes were taken on various issues including his impeachment proceedings. The Article states, “This purported Grand Council attempts to impede on Tribal Council’s sole authority to impeach.”
Article XII alleges that Chief Lambert violated Cherokee Code Section 14-70.42(c)(8) which speaks to the illegality of using tribal resources for one’s own benefit. The Article alleges, “Mr. Lambert issued administrative leave to all tribal employees who attended, used the tribal transit program to transport people to the Cherokee Central Schools, Cherokee Central Schools dismissed early, and used tribal employees to work at the Grand Council. Mr. Lambert used all of these tribal resources and property for his own personal gain.”
During Friday’s special session, Tribal Council also approved the rules on the impeachment proceedings. The One Feather requested a copy of those rules from the TOP Office but did not receive them by press time.
The rules were approved by a vote of 7-2 with Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke and Big Cove Rep. Richard French being the two dissenting votes. Vice Chairman Brandon Jones, Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy, and Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe were all absent for Friday’s meeting.
The added Articles of Impeachment were approved by a vote of 7-1 with the same absences and Rep. Saunooke voting against. The only difference was that Rep. French abstained.
Rep. French stated during the meeting that he felt the need to explain his votes and stated, “It was brought to our attention that the Grand Council vote was invalid. Maybe so, but the people’s voice is never invalid. The people spoke. I listen to my people.”
He added, “The majority of my community is for the Chief and has asked me to back this Chief.”
Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha commented, “It wouldn’t be right for me to sit here and say that everybody was against him (Chief Lambert) or everybody was for him because he still has some support in my community…we, as a Tribe, with this government, have the community split in half with everything that’s going on.”
He went on to say, “An old-timer told me, ‘there’s always three views for every matter. There’s the Council’s version, the Chief’s version, and then the truth.’ And, I told them with the accusations being filed, I’m just not built that way, I can’t just turn a blind eye to something that may be wrong.”
Addressing Chief Lambert directly, Rep. Wachacha noted, “I’m not saying you’re guilty of anything. I’m just saying there’s accusations that’s laid out there, and I think that we need to try to find the truth and allow you the opportunity to speak before this body to explain. And, hopefully after everything is done, this Tribe will heal and move forward.”
Chief Lambert spoke to the added Articles of Impeachment, especially the one regarding Grand Council. “The Charter says the Chief has the authority to call Grand Council, and now you’re going to use it as an Article for impeachment?”
In speaking of the Grand Council, he said, “Mr. Chairman, this has gone on long enough…the people have spoken. If you look at the numbers there were there (Grand Council), 1,355. Last election, there was 3,661 total people that voted in the last Chief’s election. The people that showed up with one week’s notice, 1,355, that’s 37 percent of the total number of people that voted last election. I think that’s a pretty loud voice.”
Following the first two votes, Birdtown Rep. Travis Smith made the following motion, “In order to move on with the process that’s in place here now and being that we can’t get the chosen attorney paid due to the blockage of getting a check cut from our own budget, I make a move now that we retain Chris Siewers with whatever co-counsel he chooses to handles these proceedings from here.”
That motion was also approved by a 7-1 vote with the same results.