The Calista Corporation is calling it a frivolous lawsuit, but for Col. Wayne Don, it’s a way to cover legal expenses and keep shareholders from paying for an ongoing board battle that has ended up in the courts.
Last spring, the Calista Regional Native Corporation filed a lawsuit against its own former board chairman and current board member Col. Wayne Don. It has not yet gone to trial, but a countersuit has now been filed.
Last Thursday, attorney Sam Fortier filed a separate lawsuit against Calista’s insurance company for failing to insure his client, Col. Wayne Don. The policy is supposed to cover board members from legal liabilities involving the corporation.
“The complaint requests relief in the form of a declaratory judgement by the court that the insurance policy covers the lawsuit against Wayne,” wrote Fortier.
The suit claims that Don was doing his job as chairman when he called a special meeting to discuss Calista President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Guy’s handling of complaints about alleged sexual harassment and corruption on the part of George Owletuk, Calista officer and friend of the CEO.
Fortier says that Don was protecting the corporation from possible liability, adding that Don also acted as a whistleblower when he called the meeting which led to Don being asked to resign from the board.
“There are exclusions like there are in every insurance policy,” explained Fortier, “but there’s an exception to the exclusion that protects whistleblowers that get sued. Here, Wayne was clearly a whistleblower. He was blowing the whistle on what appeared to be a cover-up of an attempted fraud by Mr. Owletuk against Calista.”
Calista Communications Manager Thom Leonard issued a statement Sunday saying that Calista does not believe Wayne Don is a whistleblower. The statement says: "Calista continues to deny these frivolous allegations, and looks forward to a positive resolution with Wayne Don.”
The Native corporation initially filed suit against three people: Don, his attorney, and one of Don’s supporters, a former board member of Calista. Later, that third defendant was dropped from the suit, leaving Don and his lawyer, Sam Fortier. Then, more recently, the corporation moved to drop its charges against Fortier. Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi agreed to dismiss those charges with prejudice. That means Calista needs to pay expenses incurred by Fortier. The question is how much?
“I think it’s somewhere in the order of $80,000,” said Fortier, who says that the issue is complicated because it is not just the money he spent to pay an attorney. “What we are asking for is the amount of time that the case has taken for me, as well as the amount of time my lawyers had to spend on the case as relating to what I could have done for Wayne or for anybody else.”
Calista’s attorneys have not yet responded to Fortier’s claims.
Calista's original suit asked for an injunction to stop board member Don, his attorney, and a former board member from criticizing the corporation during a board election. The three were also accused of conducting an illegal proxy campaign to swing the board election.
Superior Court Judge Guidi threw the injunction out, saying that there was no evidence of an illegal proxy battle, and that the statements made by Don were protected under the First Amendment. The judge also added that the former chairman had a right to defend his reputation.
Calista Attorney Walter Featherly disagrees with that decision. He says that Calista’s attorneys plan to appeal the judge’s First Amendment rulings after the trial, now expected next year.