Impeachment of Cherokee chief goes before Grand Council

In a rare vote, members of the Eastern band of Cherokee Indians cast ballots Tuesday either for or against impeaching the tribe's chief. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

In a rare vote, members of the Eastern band of Cherokee Indians cast ballots Tuesday either for or against impeaching the tribe's chief.

RELATED | Embattled Cherokee chief calls for Grand Council

The Grand Council, as it's called, came after the Tribal Council served Principal Chief Patrick Lambert with articles of impeachment. A majority of the Tribal Council claim Lambert has broken Cherokee code, something he denies. So, Lambert decided to take his case directly to the people.

They lined up and walked into Cherokee High School, and, one by one, enrolled members of the tribe cast ballots, either for or against resolutions to kill the intent and direction of Tribal Council to draft articles of impeachment against Lambert or for or against Tribal Council establishing a date for an impeachment hearing against Lambert.

An impeachment hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

RELATED | Cherokee Chief Lambert served with impeachment articles

Earlier this month, a majority of Tribal Council served Lambert with impeachment articles, claiming he violated hiring practices, made business contracts inappropriately and acted to benefit himself - all claims Lambert denies, saying they come in response to his efforts to clean up government.

“If there was wrongdoing there, I mean, everybody would have seen it,” Joshua Hornbuckle said.

Residents said you have to go back decades to find the last time Grand Council met.

“Honestly, this is like a piece of history,” Hornbuckle said. “It's going to go down in the books as one of the biggest events that's happened on the reservation.”

RELATED | FBI raid, calls for chief's impeachment rock Cherokee

The chief has opponents. Those News 13 talked to did not want to appear on camera.

Lambert has supporters, as well. They voted him into office a couple years ago.

“They elected him to put him in there to do what he, what he's done. And I think he's done a good job,” Belena Banks said.

Many said they want this procedure to end the turmoil.

“I think it needs to happen. It's something that the tribe needs and we, to move forward and get all this stuff behind us,” Sampson Teesateskie said.

Lambert said Cherokee’s charter gives a Grand Council authority to ratify and pass laws.

“The Grand Council can actually override council themselves,” Hornbuckle said.

News 13 reached out to tribal officials for the results of Tuesday’s vote and what it means for Thursday’s scheduled impeachment hearing. As of Tuesday night, they had made no comment.

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