By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Less than an hour following the impeachment of former Principal Chief Patrick Lambert on Thursday, May 25, then-Vice Chief Richard G. Sneed was sworn in as the Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. That left a vacancy in the Office of Vice Chief.
Tribal Council met in a special session on Thursday, June 15 to discuss the issue of filling that vacancy. After receiving legal counsel in closed session, Chairman Bill Taylor brought the meeting to order and related that Council has decided to seek an opinion from the Cherokee Supreme Court as to the legality of holding a special election.
“At this point in time, I think everyone around the table doesn’t have a problem with having a special election,” Chairman Taylor noted, “but, at the same time, there’s a question of whether or not it’s against the Charter. So, we’ve decided to ask, in one question to the Supreme Court up here, ‘does the Tribal Council have the authority to have a special election? If so, does it violate the Charter? ”
Section 14 of the EBCI Charter and Governing Document states in part, “In case of death, resignation or disability of the Vice-Chief, the Council may elect a successor who shall serve until removed or disability or his successor is elected.”
Section 161-8(b) of the Cherokee Code states, “If the position of Vice Chief is vacated, the Council may elect a successor from Tribal Council Representatives, who shall serve until his or her successor is elected the balance of the elected term of office.”
Chairman Bill Taylor said a special election is the wish of Council if it is deemed legal by the Supreme Court. He said if they receive a positive ruling, it is Council’s wish to have the special election be a part of the General Election set for Sept. 7. “We want to make sure that we don’t break the Charter and go down that same road.”
Vice Chairman Brandon Jones added, “We want to do what’s best for the Tribe. We want to promote healing. We want to move forward, and I think that is the best way.”
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke said she’s in favor of holding a special election. “I have to respect the wishes of our people, and they all want to vote and should be able to do that. So, I’m going to stick with let the people vote.”
Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy commented, “I have always had confidence and faith in our people voting – whether it was voting for me to be in this seat or voting on an alcohol issue or a marijuana issue, blood degree issue, land issues…trust your people.”