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Wednesday, 24 August 2011 20:29

Divulging Lambert’s salary a political tug-of-war

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Principal chief candidate Patrick Lambert is calling foul after refusing to divulge his pay information to the tribe’s internal auditors. Lambert said they were trying to expose his personal information as a political smear.

The tribe’s internal audit office told Lambert it needed to know his salary at the Tribal Gaming Commission to prepare taxes for the Cherokee Youth Center/Boys & Girls Club. Lambert is a board member. The IRS, it claimed, needed the income paid to any board member of the Boys & Girls club by a related entity.

Both the Boys & Girls Club and gaming commission are tribal operations, so that means related, said the auditor.

Lambert, however, said “no.” Of all the people who sit on that board, why, he asked, was he being singled out?

“Nobody else was contacted to my knowledge,” said Lambert. “I refused to give my W2s. There’s often times people on these volunteer charity boards refuse to give these things, and the IRS accepts that fact if the organization has used reasonable effort.”

Auditor Sharon Blankenship, however, wasn’t taking “no” for an answer. She came to the office of the Tribal Gaming Commission, looking for the documents herself.

She was rebuffed there, as well, and asked to leave after Lambert’s staff put in a call to the Cherokee Police Department. Cherokee Code says that no one but a gaming commissioner can access gaming commission files.

Lambert charges that the effort to uncover his salary is politically motivated, an attempt by the current administration to use it as a smear campaign against him. Blankenship contends that she’s just trying to follow the rules set by the IRS.

The issue came up in a special session of tribal council last Wednesday, where Council Member Teresa McCoy asked why the audit office was going after the papers now.

“I was on that board in 2010 and nobody came to my house and said, ‘I want to look at your tax papers,’” said McCoy.

Blankenship, however, defended her actions. They did, she said, get in touch with everyone and the gaming commission is the only one that didn’t provide salary information.

In the end, Lambert’s attorney turned in an IRS form, but maintained that Lambert is in no way obligated to give out his W2s.

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