The ongoing power struggle within Calista’s upper leadership reached a stalemate on Friday night. After hours of public comment at a particularly tense annual meeting, shareholders opted to maintain the Calista Regional Native Corporation’s current balance of power.
Shareholders reelected board members Robert Beans, JoAnn Werning, and Myron Naneng, but voted out Robert Hoffman, who lost his seat to former Calista treasurer Marcie Scherer. While it’s unclear whether Scherer would support CEO Andrew Guy over former board chairman Wayne Don, Calista’s Board of Directors will still be tilted in Guy’s favor by at least a six-five vote in most decisions.
“Shareholders clearly voted for stability and continuing the steady growth of our Corporation,” wrote Calista Communications Manager Thom Leonard in a statement issued Friday night. "We thank all of the people who let their voice be heard at the meeting and through their proxy."
Calista’s board election was the latest in a series of increasingly public debates over who should lead the corporation. CEO Andrew Guy and former chairman Wayne Don have been trying to push each other out of Calista for most of the past year, and the corporation’s infighting has grown increasingly brutal. Calista is currently suing Don to remove him from its Board of Directors, and the corporation and its CEO were sued earlier this week in a sexual harassment case.
If the board had swung in Wayne Don’s favor, then he might have been able to urge Calista’s board to dismiss the lawsuit against him. As it stands now, he says, he’ll have to fight it out in court.
“From a principle and responsibility standpoint, this is the right thing to do,” said Don during a dinner with friends at Connie’s Place in Bethel after the meeting. “I maintain that I followed the rules and my responsibilities. I take my fiduciary duty very seriously and will continue to advocate for that until this thing is resolved.”
While he doesn’t know Scherer personally, Don says that he looks forward to working with her.
“She’s an accounting and financial professional, so she understands the due diligence piece of things,” he said. “She understands that board members should be independent, and we’ll hope that she continues to serve in that capacity: being a positive person on the board.”
The political struggle between Don and Guy can be traced back to a series of sexual harassment allegations in 2017, which Don and his supporters argue Guy mishandled. In a lawsuit filed earlier this week, Colorado businesswoman Tiffany Phillips claims that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by George Owletuck, a former Calista top executive and close friend of Guy’s.
When she complained to Guy about how she was treated, he apologized to her but didn’t refer her case to Calista’s Human Resources Department like he was supposed to. Don tried to raise concerns about how Guy handled Phillips’ complaint at a Calista board meeting last December, but several board members quickly shut him down. Guy and his supporters have been trying to push Don out of the corporation ever since.
While shareholders didn’t tilt Calista’s Board of Directors in Don’s favor on Friday, they did have plenty of questions for Calista’s leadership. At least 20 and 30 people publicly supported Don during the annual meeting’s public comment period.
“Obviously, being on the other end of that I’m very appreciative of it,” Don said.
Many shareholders seemed particularly angered by the way Guy may have handled the sexual harassment allegations against Owletuck. Calista repeatedly reprimanded Owletuck for harassment during his short time at the corporation. During the annual meeting, a former Calista employee told other shareholders that Owletuck had harassed her too.
These weren't the only issues Calista shareholders debated on Friday. Constituents also approved the formation of an Alaska Native Settlement Trust by a wide margin, and a number of shareholders publicly opposed the Donlin Gold mine; Calista leased the mineral rights to Donlin to develop the project.