Court stays Impeachment Hearing, Council sets new date
By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The impeachment saga between Tribal Council and Principal Chief Patrick Lambert continues. Several motions were heard in Tribal Court on Monday, April 17, and as a result, the Impeachment Hearing originally scheduled for Thursday, April 20 had to be rescheduled by Tribal Council.
In an order filed on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 18, Judge Sharon Barrett, Cherokee Tribal Court temporary associate judge, wrote, “As this Order is being appealed to the Cherokee Supreme Court, and in recognition of the significance and time-sensitivity of this matter, the Court further orders pursuant to Rule 62(c) of the Rules of Civil Procedure that the impeachment proceedings that are currently pending before the Tribal Council shall be stayed forthwith for a period of ten days, or until otherwise ordered by the Cherokee Supreme Court.”
That order was filed 51 minutes into Tuesday’s Grand Council session at which two impeachment-related measures were approved. The first one, passed by a vote of 958-182, killed the intent and direction of Res. No. 502 (2017) regarding the drafting of the Articles of Impeachment against Chief Lambert. The second one, passed by a vote of 959-183, killed the intent and direction of Res. No. 546 (2017) which established the date for an impeachment hearing.
The day after Grand Council was held, Tribal Council met in special session to discuss establishing a new day for the Impeachment Hearing.
In speaking of Monday’s court hearing, Tribal Council Chairman Bill Taylor noted, “At that time, the judge ruled in favor denying the injunction, but asked that there be a 10-day stay on the Impeachment Hearing.”
Chairman Taylor presented Res. No. 562 (2017) to Tribal Council on Wednesday seeking to amend the hearing date to Tuesday, May 2.
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke immediately stated, “In accordance with the Grand Council yesterday, I make a motion to rescind the Articles of Impeachment.”
That motion failed by a vote of 9-2 with Rep. Saunooke and Big Cove Rep. Richard French being the only two voting in favor. Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy was absent for Wednesday’s special session.
Chief Lambert then addressed Council and stated, “Section 10 of the Charter and Governing Document of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, that we all took an oath to uphold, states very clearly that the Principal Chief has the power to call a special session of Council. Therefore, I don’t recognize this as being a legitimately-called session of Council.”
He asked that someone entertain an amendment to Res. No. 562 to recognize the votes taken at Grand Council on Tuesday. Rep. Saunooke, in turn, made that motion. That motion was also voted down 9-2 with Reps. Saunooke and French being the two voting in favor.
Following that vote, Chief Lambert commented, “So, we’ve got nine people that are going to overrule the Grand Council and the vote of the people? Is that what I just saw happen?”
He went on to say, “If this Tribal Council refuses to recognize the vote of the people, are you going to recognize the vote in June? Are you going to recognize the vote in October? Grand Council is specifically recognized in the history and culture of this Tribe, and traditions of this Tribe specify that Ground Council is part of our government.”
Following some debate on whether or not Wednesday’s special session was legitimate or not, Chairman Taylor read a letter he received from William McKee Jr., Cherokee Agency superintendent. “This correspondence is to reiterate my statement to you that the current duly-elected Tribal Council members are recognized by the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs Cherokee Agency, as the official governing body of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and are authorized to conduct such matters as prescribed by your tribal charter.”
Chief Lambert retorted, “I could get a similar letter where he would say that I’m recognized as the official Principal Chief and I have powers under the Charter to exercise my duties.”
Yellowhill Rep. B. Ensley commented, “The Chief (Lambert) is right on the two former Chiefs (Crowe and Dugan) calling a Grand Council, but in neither of the Grand Councils, no action was taken. They were dealing with the Charter and establishing a Charter Committee.”
He said he didn’t agree with the 1986 referendum that established the Charter and Governing Document, “But, I didn’t prevail in that argument. This Tribe has accepted what’s in place whether we like it or not, that’s what it is. I still don’t like it, but I’ve had to abide by it for 20 years.”
As of press time, a date for an appeal to the Cherokee Supreme Court has not been set.