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Council shortens term of casino board member

Council shortens term of casino board member

Tribal Council narrowly passed a resolution last month that would shorten the term of embattled Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise board member Angela Kephart, but when council reconvenes on Aug. 4, Kephart will be asking its members to reconsider. 

“Resolution #295 was worded to manipulate my term appointment by shortening the term, therefore ‘removal without cause,’” Kephart wrote in a letter to Tribal Council outlining the reasons for her protest.

Former Principal Chief Michell Hicks appointed Kephart and Barak Myers to the board in March 2015, when both new members filled unexpired terms vacated by resigning board members. The resolution twice lists Myers’ name first and Kephart’s name second, further down stating that “the first appointment will expire on Sept. 30, 2016, and the second appointment will expire on Sept. 30, 2017.” 

The resolution passed last month, submitted by current Principal Chief Patrick Lambert, reverses the order of the appointments so that Kephart’s term expires this year and Myers’ term expires in 2017. 

“It is the desire of the Principal Chief to amend the Resolution and clarify that Barak Myers is the second appointment and Angie Kephart is the first appointment named in that Resolution,” the document reads. 

“Both these appointments are appointments from the Principal Chief,” Lambert told council at its July meeting. “They serve at the pleasure of the chief’s office and can be removed for cause. I’m not asking that they be removed — I’m only asking that they serve at the pleasure of the principal chief, and that’s the terms I’m requesting council to honor.” 

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Council approved Lambert’s resolution, but narrowly. The vote — councilmembers’ votes are weighted based on the population of their township so that the 12 members’ votes add up to 100 — came out to 45-43 in favor of passage, with Councilmember Albert Rose, of Birdtown, abstaining with his 12 votes. 

According to Cherokee code, TCGE board members serve five-year terms subject to removal for cause by a majority vote of Tribal Council — members are appointed by the principal chief with approval from Tribal Council. 

Council considered removing Kephart for cause earlier this year, after reports surfaced that she’d been consuming free alcohol at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino — TGCE board members aren’t allowed to accept gifts from the casino — and held a party in one of the suites, in which the casino worker serving the group allegedly was sexually harassed. The allegations also said that Kephart had verbally harassed another server at the casino. Somebody obtained portions of security footage from Harrah’s and posted it on Facebook, where it spread like wildfire. 

In response, Tribal Council ordered an investigation. However, the investigation — council would not release the report or the name of the investigator — concluded that the evidence didn’t point to any cause for Kephart’s seat being taken away. As a result, council ultimately ended up allowing Kephart to keep her position, though not without opposition. 

According to Councilmember Teresa McCoy, of Big Cove, the investigation was so poorly done that “a monkey could have done it,” and after council first considered the report in June she promised that the issue would make its way back to council. 

Lambert made a similar promise. He’s been working to get Kephart off the board ever since he took office in October 2015, soliciting her resignation within days of his swearing-in. She refused. 

Kephart alleges that she’s being unfairly targeted and harassed by Lambert. Lambert, who for 22 years before becoming chief served as executive director of the Tribal Gaming Commission — a separate board from the TCGE that is also involved with the casino — has maintained that there are very good reasons why Kephart isn’t fit to serve as a board member. After council’s June meeting, when the efforts to remove her failed, he promised to keep trying. 

“I will continue to stand firmly with the Cherokee family and all employees who have had to suffer from this type of mistreatment from Ms. Kephart,” Lambert said in June. “I think she should show respect to our Tribe and the position by resigning or face further potential efforts for removal.”

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