Published On: Fri, Apr 7th, 2017

Investigative Report from Chief Lambert – April 2, 2017

(Photo courtesy of EBCI Communications)

 

By PRINCIPAL CHIEF PATRICK LAMBERT 

 

I know your time is valuable so I want to apologize from the outset on the length that this report will be and say thank you for committing a few minutes of your time to better understand these issues so you may be better informed.

We have all heard that Tribal Council is pushing a drive to attempt to impeach me and remove me from office. They say it is because I violated some HR policies on hiring and some contracting policies. But we all know the real reason they are doing this.

Policies and procedures are not Tribal law and over the prior 10 plus years it has been proven these things are not impeachable offenses

So, let’s take a look at their record. I ask you to compare it to what they are trying to accuse me of to justify impeachment. And then ask yourselves… how many of the very ones attacking me have sat idly by and watched this happen for the past 10 years…

Resolution #503 set forth that an investigation into the past 10 years was to be conducted. And that is one thing I have been working on and the following are some results of that investigation so far.

The following reports came directly from the Office of Internal Audit and were presented to the Tribal Council and resulted in no prosecution or impeachment:

1) March 2009 – Contracts are not in compliance

Contracts exceed approved limits

Assets are not safeguarded

Payroll documentation not properly authorized

 

2) October 2009 – HR issues

Contract expenditures not supported by a valid contract

Personal Files are not properly maintained and safeguarded

Hiring, selection and recruitment procedures not adhered to

Exit interviews not conducted according to policy

Timesheets are not complete and are not accurate

Fixed assets are not properly inventoried and not safeguarded

 

3) Oct 2009 – Contracts expenditures not supported by a valid contract

Higher Education funds used for non-program expenses

Student paybacks are not monitored and tracked

 

4) January 2010 – Tribal Contracts (See attached report)

Contract expenditures are not supported by a contact

Contracts exceed spending and performing limits

Expenditures not requiring a contract paid by contract line item

 

5) June 2010 – Contracts not supported with valid contracts

Mileage reimbursements & time sheets inaccurate and not reviewed

Fixed Assets not inventoried or safeguarded

 

6) September 2010 – Contracts not supported with valid contracts

Comp Time arrangement not authorized

Non-capitalized assets not safeguarded

 

7) March 2011 – TERO has no administrative oversight

Cash handling policies and procedures are not followed

Timesheets not accurate, complete or authorized

Travel reconciliations not performed timely

TERO certifications not in compliance

Fixed assets not safeguarded

Purchasing not authorized

 

8) September 2011 – Contract spending unauthorized

 

9) December 2011 – HR Issues

Improper 401(K) processes, procedures not followed

New Hire designations and disclosures not obtained

 

10) May 2012 – Contract expenses not supported by valid contract

Contract lines used for non-contractual expenses

Purchases not authorized

Fixed assets not safeguarded

Travel not reconciled

Timesheets not properly authorized

 

11) June 2012 – Contract expenses not supported by valid contract

Files not properly established or maintained

Personal information not being protected

Policies and procedures not updated

Fixed assets not safeguarded

Travel reconciliations not timely

12) August 2012 – Contract expenses not supported by valid contract

Assets not properly recorded

Purchases not business related

Procurement practices not monitored

 

13) September 2013 – Contract expenses not supported by valid contract

Student SSN’s not safe guarded

No strategic plans or disaster recovery plan

Program computer files are not secure

Paybacks not effectively monitored or reconciled

 

14) May 2014 – Capitol assets missing

Cherokee artwork not safeguarded

Grant administration at program not effective

Tribal government property not secure

Contracts are not valid

 

The above reports obviously came before my term in office but were never addressed or dealt with. These internal audit reports are routinely sent to the Chief and Tribal Council. No one on Tribal Council asked for the former Chief to be impeached for far worse. No one even tried to clean up the mess. Why?

One of the most unbelievable aspects of the prior administration is that a total and complete policy of outright theft seemed to be OK and acceptable. Under my administration, if someone chooses to violate your trust and steal from our Tribe, regardless of who commits the theft, I will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

Each of the following shows a total lack of respect for the law and disregard for internal controls. If a person was shown to be stealing they were never prosecuted and even the person caught stealing was oftentimes simply left in their job or moved to a different position. But in each of these crimes the past administration never pushed for prosecution of the crime! The following is extracted straight out of the records from Internal Audit for just 1-2 years (2010-2011) and, again, resulting in no prosecution or impeachment:

1) October 14, 2009 – Tribal Credit Cards – Lack of documentation, 85 percent failure rate on reconciling travel authorizations, reconciliations took months or are still outstanding.

2) January 26, 2010 – Tribal Contracts – 38 percent of all Contract expenditures not supported by a contract in amounts of $928,194. There were also uncovered expenditures that are not allowed such as contract to Top Side Aviation for someone to take Flight Lessons.

3) April 19, 2010 – Theft of Cash from Cherokee Volunteer Fire Department – Use of a debit card to go shopping at Walmart, Target, ATM withdrawals, purchase of food and fuel.

4) June 18, 2010 – Board of Elections/Cherokee Youth Center – Embezzlement and Falsification of Payroll records. Cash was embezzled through false entries on timesheets by duplication on both. Double paid for the same time by both entities.

5) June 28, 2010 – Qualla Housing Authority – Theft and mishandling of cash. Cash shortages. Continuous cash discrepancies. No mortgage accounts established and no payments recorded yet customer had receipts. Manual changes made to customer accounts without documentation. Payments were not ever posted. No investigation was ever done by management or the QHA Board.

6) June 10, 2011 – Cherokee Tribal Court – Cash Theft from the Clerk of Courts Office. Significant weaknesses exist and lack of internal controls and cash handling procedures.

Since the campaign and when I got sworn into office, I promised to work non-stop, night and day, to clean this system up and end any corruption from waste, fraud or abuse. And I have made great strides in those regards. But we still have a long way to go.

As soon as I got into office I commissioned Forensic Audits to be performed on several departments within our Tribe. When those audits were completed I turned them over to the US Attorney and FBI. Since that time, they have been conducting their own investigations.

I have continued adding and strengthening our controls and systems within the Tribe to protect against waste, fraud and abuse, and we are beginning to see much improvement. For instance, I put an end to credit card abuse by cancelling all the tribal credit cards carried by employees. There were instances where employees were purchasing personal items (even underwear) online with the tribal credit cards and many other fraudulent acts. I remember at the Casino one lady was caught purchasing coloring books and crayons for her kids on the Casino P-Card and was fired and banned from working for a full ten-year period. Seems like a clear double standard.

As many of you know, I am a licensed attorney and have worked for the past twenty-one years in a highly-regulated system within the Gaming Commission, and I fully understand internal control systems and how they are designed to protect our assets and the individuals working within the system. Just as an example, remember in 2005 when I uncovered the illegal reserves at the Casino by the prior administration; the law had been broken and the NIGC came in and forced the casino to return all the money to our Tribe and to per capita. And when in 2000 we uncovered theft within the Casino by several workers, they were all arrested and convicted of felonies. In 2014, we caught another theft in the casino that resulted in a multi-year prison sentence to the person. The reason I bring these matters up is to show I have had a long history of internal control enforcement, and I do not take kindly to any instances of theft, fraud or abuse and will work to clean up the system. The system under the prior administration was rotten and will take a lot of effort and time to clean up! But I’m working on it.

When I set out on this path I told everyone this system did not become corrupt overnight (it has developed over the prior twelve years under the past administration) and therefore was going to take me quite a while to get it all cleaned up. I set a starting point and went backwards for a three-year period to begin and have expanded that into a ten-year period. The forensic audits have turned up what appear to be massive fraudulent activities within our Tribe and Qualla Housing.

As for their cries to impeach me… nowhere has there been any accusation of any money or benefit coming to me from any of my actions. As a matter of fact, I have refused benefits that usually come to this office; such as purchasing myself a new car. I don’t feel like I need a Cadillac or an electric sports car in my first term; and if I should be re-elected to a second term I will consider the purchase of a car, but believe me… it will not be a Cadillac or an electric sports car. A sense of entitlement is exactly what is wrong with this system, coupled with no fear of being caught for illegal, immoral or unethical actions.

As many of you have heard me say, I have worked hard all my life and took chances in business and that hard work has served me and my family well in my professional life and in my personal financial life. What I own is from hard work, saving and investing and is not from ill-gotten gains as some in the prior administration grew used to. It seemed there were many who felt like the Tribe was their own personal piggy-bank and they could use and abuse our resources at their own will. Those days have ended, and I believe the day of reckoning is close. I do not and will not apologize for taking this stand to clean up the mess from the past years of fraudulent neglect and abuse and will continue this path as long as I am in office.

In these same regards to cleaning up the government and making government officials more accountable to you, I have sponsored two referendum questions and we are now out collecting signatures. The first is a question on setting term limits on tribal Council; and the second is a question for you to have the power and process to remove (recall) any elected official from office if they are violating the law or committing immoral or unethical acts. I ask that you get your signature on these forms so we can get these questions on the ballot for a full vote.

In closing I ask for you to consider who to vote for in the upcoming Tribal Council Elections. Many of the current members have lost their way and are no longer working for The People. They seem to only have their self-preservation in mind and want you to vote for them again, regardless if they are doing what you want or not. There are currently 4 members who are working closely with me to clean this Tribe up and get the past administrations crimes addressed and prosecuted, Tommye Saunooke, Richard French, Teresa McCoy and Bo Crowe.

But you must ask yourself… what about the other eight?  Do they want rid of me because they think it will make all their worries go away? I am GLAD to say…this FBI investigation will continue regardless of what they do to me. I am not here to judge anyone, that will be left up to the Courts and our Good Lord. But I can vote for the persons I see doing the right things and work against those attacking me and others who are trying to make a positive difference.

We should vote against those who either through shear ignorance or an unholy alliance for power, bribery or a serious lack of judgment are trying to help cover up for their family and friends. If your council member does not stand for uncovering waste, fraud and abuse and prosecuting those who have committed those crimes against our Tribe, then you should vote against that member and find a new Council Member. If your council member attacks those who try to do the right thing or attacks them for shear issues of power or hatred from the past, then you should vote against them as well. We can do better! The ongoing actions of Tribal Council are a black-eye to all of the EBCI, and you can stop it.

It is time to clean up our government and let the rest of the world know that we are an honorable, God fearing people and will protect all our assets for Cherokee families and our future generations!

May God bless you and may our Tribe be a blessing unto God with proper teachings and examples to help fulfill His will and further His teachings. This is one of the messages I took from Sunday morning service at Church: In Psalms 1, “There are two roads in life, be a blessing to God and live your life to bear fruit OR live a life of non-belief, rebellion and destruction”. I choose the former.

Thank you for taking the time to read this report to gain a better understanding or more knowledge on these matters.

Chief Lambert-