The Calista Native Regional Corporation’s annual meeting was a lot more contentious than usual on Friday. Shareholders voted to maintain the corporation’s current leadership, but they also had a series of angry, pointed questions for its CEO.
Calista is caught up in two contentious lawsuits. It was sued in a sexual harassment case earlier this week and is also involved in litigation against its former chairman, who Calista is trying to remove from its Board of Directors. Friday’s annual meeting was the culmination of months of intrigue that can get a little hard to follow. So on Tuesday, News Director Anna Rose MacArthur sat down with KYUK’s Teresa Cotsirilos to summarize what’s going on.
Anna Rose MacArthur: Teresa, could you start by telling us why last week’s shareholder vote was such a big deal?
Teresa Cotsirilos: It gave CEO Andrew Guy an advantage in a brutal, ongoing fight within his corporation. For the past eight months or so, Guy's been locked in this power struggle with Col. Wayne Don, the former chairman of the corporation’s board. Last Friday's board election involved three of Wayne Don's supporters and one of Andrew Guy's, and the end result was that Guy retained at least a six-five majority on Calista’s board.
ARM: Let’s back up. What started this conflict between Andrew Guy and Wayne Don in the first place?
TC: Well, it depends who you believe. This is either an attempted coup, or a case of cronyism in which CEO Andrew Guy didn't do what he was supposed to. Guy helped an old friend get an executive position at Calista in 2014, and he allegedly buried a sexual harassment claim made against that friend a few years later. When Wayne Don and other Calista employees spoke out about this, they say Guy retaliated against them. Guy and his supporters, of course, deny this.
ARM: Who’s this old friend of Guy’s?
TC: His name is George Owletuck, and he’s Calista’s former Government Relations Liaison. He's been a political player in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta for a while now, and he and Andrew Guy have been close since college. Owletuck also claims to be one of Guy’s closest political advisors, and Guy was involved in his hiring process at Calista.
There’s a lot about Owletuck that Guy at least claims he didn't know about. Owletuck’s been accused of mismanaging money in several past projects, most significantly in Newtok. Calista also repeatedly reprimanded Owletuck for harassing the women he worked with. Guy has said he didn’t know about these incidents, but according to a memo written by Calista’s former Human Resources Manager, he knew about almost all of them.
Calista’s current power struggle revolves around what Guy did - or didn’t - do when Owletuck sexually harassed businesswoman Tiffany Phillips. She tried to sell her company to Calista in 2017, and Owletuck was her point of contact in that deal. Phillips sued Calista, Guy, and Owletuck last week, and in her civil complaint she claims that Owletuck incessantly sexually harassed her.
ARM: Sexually harassed?
TC: Yes. According to court documents, Owletuck sent Phillips over a thousand text messages; he sent her Victoria’s Secret underwear. At one point he flew all the way to Colorado and showed up at her house.
ARM: Did Andrew Guy know about this?
TC: Good question. In August 2017, Phillips complained to Guy about Owletuck’s behavior. Guy apologized, told her she would never have to deal with Owletuk again, and gave her a new point of contact at Calista. But he didn’t report Owletuck’s behavior to Calista’s Human Resources Department, which Calista’s Code of Business Ethics and Conduct appears to say he was supposed to do. So Calista didn’t investigate Owletuck’s behavior until Phillips’ new point of contact found out about what happened.
ARM: So it was later that Tiffany Phillips’ sexual harassment complaint was actually investigated?
TC: Right. Two months later. And in November 2017, after the investigation, Calista fired Owletuck.
ARM: And that’s where Wayne Don comes into the story?
TC: Right. Don was serving as the chairman of Calista’s Board of Directors at the time and he was appealed to by Calista employees who were concerned about this. After a series of meetings with Calista’s legal counsel and other personnel, Don called a special board meeting. He planned to show board members the results of Calista’s internal investigation and ask them to consider suspending Guy for how he handled Phillips’ harassment complaint.
ARM: What did the board members do?
TC: They shut the meeting down before the issue could come up, and that's when the move to get rid of Wayne Don began. The board has stripped him of his chairmanship, demanded he resign and publicly censured him. In May, Calista sued Don and one of his attorneys in an attempt to force Don from the Board. Guy and his allies claim Don overstepped his authority as chair in an ill-advised power grab and needs to go. Don says he was just following the rules and trying to hold Guy accountable.
ARM: So what happens next?
TC: Well, we'll see what the courts do in the corporation’s ongoing lawsuits. Calista still wants the judge to remove Wayne Don from its Board of Directors, and Tiffany Phillips wants the court to award her damages.
ARM: How much is this all this going to cost?
TC: A lot of shareholders have asked us this question and nobody's giving us an answer. We’re still trying to figure it out.
ARM: One last question: what happened to Owletuck?
TC: Well, we know this much: George Owletuck has left his wife and children and left the country. A video surfaced of Owletuck being interviewed by a radio show in Ecuador a few weeks ago, but we don’t know what country he’s in now. We also don’t know why he left, though Andrew Guy has told KYUK that it has nothing to do with his business with Calista.
ARM: So right now Andrew Guy and Wayne Don both remain at Calista?
TC: That is correct. And at this point, we're awaiting Calista's response to the latest lawsuit.
ARM: Thanks so much for coming in.
TC: Thank you.