Chief Lambert in hot water
A month-long investigation by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) Tribal Council has uncovered violations of rules, regulations, policies and processes by Principal Chief Patrick Lambert.
A recently released report by the Tribal Council pinpointed six financial deviations from Cherokee Code Chapter 117 between Oct. 5, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016.
The Tribal Council reviewed 96 contracts and/or amendments and found six improperly executed.
Lambert denies wrongdoing in a letter posted on his Facebook page. The letter reads, in part: “... the claims asserted in the report are tainted with half-truths that would lead one to believe that misconduct has occurred. This report is one-sided and is meant to paint a picture that appears to show that wrongs were committed by me ... The claims made are mistaken and many are flat out falsities.”
Investigators state that four agreements worth $630,000 authorized by Lambert did not have documented approval by the Business Committee, which is required with contracts of $50,000 or more.
The expenditures were: solid waste disposal ($353,000); consulting agreement ($150,000); forensic auditing ($65,000); and expansion and renovation of tribal executive office ($62,000).
Also, Lambert improperly signed off on two contracts billed at more than $50,000 over the contracted amount. Cherokee Code Chapter 117 requires a contract amendment or Business Committee approval when expenditures exceed contracts by $50,000 or more.
The most egregious violation of policy concerned forensic auditing: the contract called for payment of $65,000; actual expenditure was $315,407.
The other irregularity involved time clocks. The contract called for $18,412; actual expenditure was $181,861.
According to Tribal Code: “A contractor cannot commence extra work unless a written and signed Amendment has been approved through the process. The Tribe will not pay more than agreed to in the original contract unless a written and
signed Amendment is provided.”
The Tribal Council also found fault with Human Resources practices, specifically “the areas of veterans preference; manager position advertising; interviews and reference checks; Executive Committee function; organizational structure approval; interim manager assignments; pay raises; and Seniority, Merit awards and COLA payments.”
According to the Tribal Council’s executive summary: “Throughout FY16 personnel actions and organizational changes were initiated, approved and executed by the Principal Chief that raised concerns.”
The Tribal Council concluded that 11 of 31 reviewed hires, promotions and transfers for managerial and political appointments were not advertised.
According to the investigation summary: “The Principal Chief solely executed personnel actions requiring Executive Committee approval without knowledge or input of the Vice-Chief ... It is OIA’s conclusion that the Human Resources practices identified above deviated from rules, regulations, policies and processes.”
McCoy says Lambert has weathered the storm caused by the investigation.
“We see the steam dying down on this issue,” McCoy said. “There has been overwhelming public support as you will see. The men behind the curtain are exposed, and the people want it over with.”
Council Member Adam Wachacha, who represents the Snowbird community, agrees that people want the matter settled, but he says the issue is still plenty hot. “There’s a lot of people who are not happy about it,” Wachacha said. “Especially the pay raise issue. People feel like they were left in the dark. We were left in the dark. All we’ve heard is that the Tribal government isn’t transparent, so the council voted to conduct an investigation. This is what the people wanted.”
Wachacha recently met with members of the Snowbird community to address concerns. “They think we impeached the chief, but we didn’t,” Wachacha said.
That’s not to say impeachment isn’t a possibility.
“Impeachment would require two-thirds of the council to vote for it,” Wachacha said. “There’s been no decision of anything else so far. That’s not to say something won’t happen, but it hasn’t happened.”