The impeachment process set in motion during a February Tribal Council meeting reached its climax this week as Principal Chief Patrick Lambert faced a list of 12 charges during all-day impeachment hearings May 22-23.

The council house was packed to the gills Monday, May 22, as tribal members gathered to watch the impeachment proceedings against Principal Chief Patrick Lambert. They filled the seats, with additional fold-up chairs brought in to line the aisles. They stood in the halls, craning necks to watch the action, and they packed the lobby, where a livestream of the hearing played on a TV.

Cherokee’s only bail bondsman is facing federal charges for allegedly having sex with female clients in lieu of loan repayment, and for allegedly sexually abusing a teenager younger than 16.

On Monday, May 22, the Cherokee Tribal Council will preside over a hearing to consider impeachment charges against Principal Chief Patrick Lambert. Afterward, Council will vote on whether to remove him from office.

In the last minutes of a daylong session Thursday, May 11, the Cherokee Tribal Council voted to set a new hearing date for impeachment charges against Principal Chief Patrick Lambert. The vote scheduled the hearing for Thursday, May 18, but the date was later changed to 10 a.m. Monday, May 22, to accommodate the chief’s travel schedule.

The Cherokee Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings last week that paved the way for impeachment efforts against Principal Chief Patrick Lambert to continue. However, the order left several key points of contention unaddressed, meaning the issue will likely continue to appear on the court schedule.

A recent ruling from the Cherokee Tribal Court has called the authority of Grand Council into question. Temporary Associate Judge Sharon Tracey Barrett denied a request for a court order stopping Tribal Council from pursuing impeachment against Principal Chief Patrick Lambert, though 84 percent of enrolled members who cast ballots during an April 18 Grand Council session voted to repeal the impeachment legislation.

Impeachment stalled

Tribal Council will have to change the date set for Principal Chief Patrick Lambert’s impeachment hearing for the third time — if, that is, the Cherokee Tribal Court allows the impeachment to move forward.

It’s safe to say that the Cherokee Tribal Council is not scurrying to incorporate the decisions of Grand Council into its future actions. Tribal Council held a special-called meeting Wednesday, April 19 — the day after Grand Council was held — in which it set a new impeachment hearing date to comply with a recent order from the Cherokee Supreme Court and shot down an amendment Councilmember Tommye Saunooke, of Painttown, had introduced aimed at recognizing the authority of Grand Council.

It would be near impossible to find someone in Cherokee these days who doesn’t know about the political turmoil enveloping the tribe, or who doesn’t have an opinion about who’s to blame. Last week The Smoky Mountain News ventured over to Food Lion, the Qualla Boundary’s only grocery store, asking tribal members for their take on the whole thing as they walked in to pick up a gallon of milk or returned from a full-scale shopping trip.

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