Closing arguments heard in Lambert impeachment hearing

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Before going into closed session, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council listened to the end of Principal Chief Lambert’s testimony on Wednesday morning in the third day of hearings to impeach the chief.

At the end of his testimony, Lambert said that an impeachable offense should be an act that is a convicted felony, defrauding the tribe or violating the oath of office.

“To accuse me of wrongdoing for a technicality or a ‘got you’ moment, I think is wrong,” Lambert said. “Did I do work to uphold the laws of my office to the best of my ability? The answer is absolutely yes. If you did a full on fairness test of what we’ve done, the answer would have to be finding no impeachment of all accounts.”

During closing remarks, Tribal Council’s lawyer Rob Saunooke repeated the oath of office that Lambert said on the day of his inauguration.

“This is not about a criminal charge or if he has committed a felony or if he’s a bad guy,” Saunooke said. “He swore under oath as did each and every one of you [council members] that you would defend the laws of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.”

Saunooke quickly reviewed each of the 12 articles of impeachment, pointing out that each one is a law that was broken, not policy, and Lambert did not follow the correct procedures for multiple contracts and employment issues.

Saunooke said that Lambert has blocked the lawful process by vetoing his impeachment, going to court and calling Grand Council.

“He knew exactly what he was doing, and he didn’t think he’d get caught, but he did,” Saunooke said. “If he violated those laws, it doesn’t have to be a crime committed. This is a violation of your oath of office.”

In response, Lambert’s lawyer Scott Jones refuted some of the statements Saunooke said and summarized the defense of each of the 12 articles of impeachment.

Jones argued that many of the violations against Lambert was just the principal chief doing his job to protect and benefit the tribe, including blocking access to tribal financial records when he found out excess people had free access, paying legal service to help prepare five resolutions for his first day in office and reorganize and remodel the executive office for better efficiency.

Jones added that the contract between Grand Cherokee Hotel and Harrah’s was legal at the time it was signed, and that some of his mistakes were just a matter of oversight and listening and believing in his staff who advised some of his decisions.

“The chief is not guilty of any impeachable offense,” Jones said. “Impeachment isn’t a game of ‘got you’ and it’s not a political game…this process is wrong and removing the chief is wrong.”

Following closing arguments Wednesday, tribal council members went into closed session to deliberate. The council went through article 3 of the impeachment articles. They then recessed until the next day at noon.

Smoky Mountain Times

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