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Judge says council cannot suspend Cherokee chief
Thursday, 04 May 2017 12:58

From Staff Reports

CHEROKEE —  A tribal court judge on April 25 blocked a move to suspend the chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians pending impeachment proceedings against him.

Sharon Tracey Barrett, the temporary associate judge presiding over Cherokee Court, said in a ruling that Principal Chief Patrick Lambert “will not have his powers or authorities suspended as a result of Tribal Council’s actions.” 

Earlier in the month, on April 5, Tribal Council members cast two separate 9-3 votes — to begin impeachment proceedings against Lambert and to suspend him until an impeachment hearing is finisheed.

Barrett’s ruling stated that the Tribal Council went beyond its authority — and cited only one section of law — in its move to suspend Lambert. 

“Simply put, nothing contained in this provision of law empowers one branch of government, the Tribal Council, to suspend from office the head of another branch of office,” Barrett wrote.

In its challenge of Lambert, the Tribal Council — alleging that the chief improperly handled contracts and personnel matters — is pursuing impeachment proceedings against him. Lambert denies the Tribal Council’s allegations.

Lambert is contending that his discord with the Tribal Council was sparked by his order for outside audits of the Qualla Housing Authority, which is under a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.

With her ruling, Barrett noted that it meant that all three branches of tribal government are now involved in the controversy, but the judge said that she could not avoid her duty to hear and decide the case.

“A government crisis is now presented to this court as a result of the actions taken by the Tribal Council today in attempting to suspect the principal chief from office,” Barrett noted.



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