Cherokee Grand Council votes to keep chief, Tribal Council votes to impeach him

The Cherokee Grand Council voted to keep Principal Chief Patrick Lambert, but the Tribal Council voted to proceed impeach him. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Principal Chief Patrick Lambert put his faith in members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and they responded Tuesday by voting to keep him in office.

The Grand Council, as it's called, came after the Tribal Council served Lambert with articles of impeachment on April 6. Lambert said Cherokee’s charter gives a Grand Council authority to ratify and pass laws, which it did Tuesday.

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But Wednesday, Tribal Council voted to set a May 2 hearing date for Lambert's impeachment.

The Grand Council vote Tuesday was on four resolutions, two of which pertained to Lambert's impeachment. One resolution dealt with Tribal Council’s resolution to draft articles of impeachment against the chief and the other dealt with Tribal Council setting a date for an impeachment hearing.

EBCI members voted 958-182 against drafting the articles of impeachment and 959-183 against setting a date for an impeachment hearing.

But Tribal Council voted Wednesday to move forward with the impeachment, despite the results of Tuesday's Grand Council vote.

"Today’s session also addressed the issue of the grand council vote. A letter from BIA Superintendent William McKee, Jr. was presented which affirmed the Tribal Council as the duly elected official governing body of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as recognized by the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Cherokee Agency. According to the Cherokee Code, only the appointed election board has the authority to conduct elections on tribal lands," Tribal Council said in a news release.

Tribal Council added that the hearing will provide Lambert with a formal process to address the allegations contained in the seven articles of impeachment.

"Those articles allege the Principal Chief violated his oath of office when he failed to conduct himself in a manner most conducive to the interest and prosperity of the tribe. The articles allege Lambert signed a contract worth more than $1 million with the Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise after his election. Also included was an allegation that Lambert received services from a law firm for more than $9000 prior to taking the oath of office then subsequently paid for services provided before he was Principal Chief without a valid tribal contract. Lambert also contracted for service in the amount of $65,000 but paid more than $300,000 for those services without amending the contract. Other allegations include contracts which were not valid according to tribal fiscal policies. Lambert is also alleged to have violated Cherokee Code by changing the organizational structure and levels of authority in tribal operations without Tribal Council approval. Lambert also failed to follow tribal laws by disallowing the Tribal Employment Rights Office use of tribal resources. Allegations also include that Lambert failed in his duties to carry out tribal laws and administer the daily operations of the tribe by assigning an interim manager while the manager position was filled, named a political appointment without an authorized salary, and authorized five employee pay adjustments without any supporting documentation," the release said.

Tribal Council said other articles of impeachment can be added, as well as criminal charges as the investigation continues.