Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Chief Gets Impeached

Tribal Council removes Cherokee chief from office

CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) – A tribal council in North Carolina has voted to remove its chief for only the second time since the early 1800s.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council found Principal Chief Patrick Lambert guilty on eight of 12 articles of impeachment on Thursday, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

The articles of impeachment approved on a 9-3 vote of the tribal council included allegations that Lambert had used his office for personal gain.

Lambert was accused of signing a contract with Harrah’s Cherokee Casino to have the casino rent rooms from a hotel he owned. He also was accused of signing contracts without approval of the tribal council as well as improper hiring practices, including hiring an attorney for his personal benefit.

More than a dozen supporters of Lambert marched outside the tribal chambers after the vote to remove him.

He was elected principal chief of the 14,000-member tribe in 2015 with more than 70 percent of the vote. He had called the impeachment effort a “witch hunt.”

“What we just saw today was nine people,” he said. “How many people in this crowd support me? I think those nine overruled 71 percent of this tribe.” 

But Lambert, an attorney who served as executive director of the Tribal Gaming Commission for 22 years, said he would respect the decision.

“I’m not angry about the impeachment,” he said. “We need to stop fighting.”

Special prosecutor Robert Saunooke said Lambert cherry-picked the tribal laws he followed.
“There are no exceptions to laws,” Saunooke said.

Lambert and his attorney, Scott Jones, said the allegations were not impeachable offenses.

“There is no evidence that he committed impeachable offenses,” Jones said in his closing argument. “He’s done the best of his ability to provide services and protect the charter.Vice Chief Richard Sneed has taken over as principal chief.

The Eastern Band of the Cherokee has been led by 27 chiefs since the early 1800s, and the council voted to oust just one principal chief.

A unanimous tribal council removed Jonathan “Ed” Taylor in 1995, on allegations he solicited bribes and had tribal employees work on his homes and cars while being paid by the tribe.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Winnebago Tribal Council Member Pleads Guilty

Another former tribal leader pleads guilty in casino theft

The Associated Press

Another former Winnebago Tribal Council member has pleaded guilty to his role in stealing from the tribe's casino in Iowa.

The Sioux City (Iowa) Journal reports ( ) that 70-year-old Louis Houghton entered the plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Omaha. His sentencing is set for Aug. 14.

Houghton is one of nine former council members accused of a conspiracy to siphon more than $327,000 from the WinneVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa. Seventy-one-year-old Lawrence Payer pleaded guilty earlier this month to the same charge: theft from a gaming establishment on Indian lands.

Prosecutors have recommended that Houghton also be sentenced to five years of probation and be ordered to repay any money he illegally obtained from the casino.


Former Winnebago tribal officer pleads guilty to theft


In July, a federal grand jury indicted Payer, Houghton, former tribal chairman John Blackhawk, Darwin Snyder, Thomas Snowball Jr., Travis Mallory, Charles Aldrich, Morgan Earth and Ramona Wolfe. Each was charged with conspiracy, theft from a gaming establishment on Indian lands and wire fraud.

The indictments came after an FBI investigation determined that while on the tribal council, the defendants had given themselves raises and bonuses totaling $327,500 directly from the tribe's WinnaVegas Casino Resort without approving them at council meetings. It showed that in 2013 and 2014, the nine were issued $87,000 in gift certificates by the casino and uploads to prepaid debit cards paid for by the casino totaling $240,500. These distributions were recorded on the casino's books as miscellaneous administrative expenses, according to the indictment.