Lambert impeached and removed as principal chief
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council in a 9-3 decision Thursday, May 25, voted to impeach and immediately remove Principal Chief Patrick Lambert from office following nearly three hours of deliberation in closed session.
Also Thursday, Vice Chief Richie Sneed was sworn in to take Lambert’s place as principal chief.
It was day four of the impeachment hearing process. The council found Lambert guilty of 8 out of 12 articles for impeachment.
Bill Taylor, council chairman, said Lambert only has to be found guilty of one article to be impeached and removed from office.
Council chambers were eerily quiet as council delivered its decision to oust the chief who was elected into office in fall 2015 with 70 percent of the popular vote, but that changed when council came back into session after a break to swear Sneed into office.
Demands from tribal members erupted from the audience, with many calling for a special election to determine who would become the principal chief. Soon after, tribal council, Sneed and Judge Saunooke left the chambers.
Sneed was then sworn into office at the Cherokee Justice Center around 4:30 p.m.
Many of Lambert’s supporters remained at the Tribal House, sharing their dismay for council’s decision and the impeachment process.
Several pointed to the Cherokee Charter, citing that the vice chief can only become chief if the current chief resigns, is unfit to serve or dies.
Others also criticized tribal council members for both bringing the accusations against Lambert and issuing the decision for impeachment.
Around 5:15 p.m., Lambert spoke to the crowd.
“That nine just overruled 70 percent of this tribe,” Lambert said. “What we saw as well was that nine trying to swear in a new chief. However, that new chief would not allow the people to speak.”
That’s not a good way to start as principal chief, he continued.
“I think the people should be allowed to speak; I’ve always been on that side,” Lambert said.
He vowed to support change in the tribal council election in September but did not say he would continue to fight the decision. He said tribal council moved to impeach him because of the FBI investigation into Qualla Housing.
The impeachment articles were brought against Lambert on Feb. 2, the same day the FBI raided the Qualla Housing Authority, where six members of Tribal Council sit on its board, and seized financial documents for allegedly misuse of federal money.
See the next print edition of Smoky Mountain Times for more background information, comments from tribal members and how each council member voted.