By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Four separate pieces of vetoed legislation were debated by Tribal Council and Principal Chief Patrick Lambert during the regular session on Thursday, Sept. 8. The vetoed legislation included creation of an Office of Governmental Ethics, independence of the TERO Office and Board, the recent BIA Realty troubles, and a Council-led investigation into tribal hiring practices.
Council upheld the vetoes on the Office of Governmental Ethics and the BIA issue and denied the vetoes on TERO and the hiring investigation.
Prior to discussions on each of the four vetoes, Chief Lambert addressed Council and spoke of recent issues involving legislation he has submitted, “I’m doing my job, Mr. Chairman, and will continue to do my job. I’ve submitted valid legislation that I think is important to this Tribe that should have fair consideration. Merely to turn something down or to vote against something because I’m the one that submitted it is completely wrong. It’s improper for the body (Council). It’s improper for this Tribe, and I ask that everything that comes before you be given fair consideration regardless of who has submitted it.”
The first veto discussed was Ord. No. 153 – Office of Governmental Ethics. A letter from Chief Lambert accompanying his veto was read into the record. “While I fully support the aim of this legislation, we still need to address several technical details in the legislation to ensure it has the strength and clarity it will need to hold elected officials fully accountable,” the letter states in part. “It is my sincere hope that we can begin working collaboratively to address the specific. Legislation like this is past due. People are hungry for all elected officials to be held to a higher standard.”
He told Council that a re-draft of the Ordinance would be best. “…it’s going to take a re-draft and bringing it back to Council, and I’m not opposed to doing that.”
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke made a motion to uphold the veto so further discussion could be held. “We have not had the full discussion on it.”
After a vote, the veto was upheld with the following voting against: Chairman Bill Taylor, Vice Chairman Brandon Jones, Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose, Birdtown Rep. Travis Smith, and Yellowhill Rep. Anita Lossiah.
Following the vote, Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy said a working session of Tribal Council to discuss the matter further would be prudent. “I am so pleased that this Council voted to have an Ethics Law, and it only makes sense to have an Ethics Office go along with it so that there is some clarify. The last person I want on an Ethics Committee is an elected person.”
Next on the floor was Vetoed Ord. No. 290 dealing with the independence of the TERO Office and Board. Chief Lambert said in his veto letter that he felt the fact that a substitute ordinance was passed on Thursday, Aug. 4 was in violation of tribal law.
In speaking on the issue on Thursday, he commented, “It’s certainly not because I don’t support the content or the intent of this legislation. I support the concept and intent of this; however, I can’t support violation of tribal law whenever it is brought to the floor, and I think Council should also adhere to the law whenever it’s brought to the floor.”
He added, “There are several things that could have happened with amendments, but the passage, as it happened, was a clear violation of tribal law. We will get to working on this, and we can correct these problems, but no in the sense that it was done because there’s a lot of conflicts within the Ordinance itself.”
Rep. Rose made a move to deny the veto. During the vote, Rep. Saunooke, who originally opposed the legislation in August because of the substitute issue, was the only one who voted to uphold.
The next issue tackled was the BIA Realty situation. Following some discussion on formatting and signature issues on the official ratification sheet which Chief Lambert felt were insufficient, he commented, “The issue here involves 638 contract of the BIA Realty Services. There’s been a lot of work gone into this considering this resolution was passed over nine months ago and brought in to rescind that with the idea toward having a meeting in 30 days.”
Rep. McCoy noted, “The whole debacle with the BIA has people waiting again. We’ve had to re-arrange our meetings because the 10-day period to contact people ran out. I’m telling you people to do something.”
The veto was upheld with four representatives voting to deny including: Chairman Taylor, Vice Chairman Jones, Rep. Rose, and Rep. Smith.
The last veto discussed on Thursday was an action of Council taken last month to wage an investigation into various personnel issues regarding tribal employees of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The investigation, approved during the Aug. 4 Council session, was not an official resolution but an action of Council that grew out of a discussion starting in the report of Vice Chief Richard G. Sneed.
In his veto letter, Chief Lambert wrote, “It seems there is a mistaken belief that I cannot veto an act of Council due to an ordinance provision found in Chapter 117 of the Cherokee Code. However, it is clear that the Charter and Governing Document is the overriding power and authority and without question is the law that we all swear to uphold and take an oath to defend.”
He also cited Chapter 12 and Chapter 13 which states, “The Principal Chief shall have the power to veto all acts of Council.”
During Thursday’s debate, Chief Lambert commented, “This is an issue that the Vice Chief was bringing forward. I guess it stems from a couple of people that have resigned or have been transferred to another position. There’s been no problems in HR that I’ve been aware of.”
In discussing the personnel action in question, he related, “All of the actions taken are within process and procedure. This is something that is basically a witch hunt. This is from emotions against me by a couple of people on this Tribal Council. I think it’s improper. It’s a violation of day-to-day operations.”
The veto was denied with Reps. Saunooke, McCoy, and French voting to uphold.
Following the vote, Rep. Saunooke asked, “So, does that mean that Tribal Council is going to start doing the hiring and firing?”
Chairman Taylor answered, “No.”
Rep. McCoy said she would like to see all of the information regarding the investigators who are hired prior to the start of the investigation. “I would also like some clarification on just exactly what is it that we’re investigating.”
Chairman Taylor responded, “It was the hiring, the demotions, promotions, transfers, and everything that’s taken place.”