The Calista Regional Native Corporation is trying to get rid of its former chairman, and it’s not entirely clear why.
In a press release last week, Calista’s Board of Directors accused Colonel Wayne Don of interfering with an internal investigation, improperly issuing orders to Calista employees, and threatening Calista CEO Andrew Guy. They voted to publicly censure him last week.
The allegations came as a surprise to many of Don’s supporters. Born and raised in Mekoryuk, Don is a well-respected colonel in the Alaska Army National Guard. For his part, Don says that none of the three allegations against him actually happened, which is why he won’t resign.
"Why would somebody subject themselves to this when they otherwise had a positive, very good reputation?" said Don. "Other than the fact of my convictions and my sense of service."
Don and his attorney tell a very different story, one that involves the Me Too Movement and a CEO’s slow response. In 2017, when Don was still serving as the board’s Chairman, he says that Calista was conducting an internal investigation of one of its employees. Don would not elaborate on the nature of that investigation, but his attorney Sam Fortier did.
"An employee had engaged in, basically, a rather significant 'me too' moment. In fact, a series of moments," said Fortier. He said that the unnamed Calista employee had repeatedly sexually harassed a woman who worked for a potential Calista vendor. The woman reported it to CEO Andrew Guy in August 2017. Calista’s employee policies require leadership to respond immediately to allegations like this, but Fortier says that nothing happened.
The woman reported the harassment again a few weeks later, this time to Calista’s Human Resources Department, and Calista promptly launched an internal investigation. Fortier said that a few members of Calista’s middle management were concerned about Andrew Guy’s failure to respond the woman’s first complaint, and Don said that they approached him with their concerns.
"There are specific provisions within the employee handbook which allow employees to come directly to the chairman of the board if there is an issue that involves the president," he said.
Don said that he did not interfere with Calista’s internal investigation, like the board claims, or give any employees directives that he shouldn’t have. The investigation wrapped up in November 2017, and Fortier said the corporation found that their employee had repeatedly sexually harassed the woman. They quickly fired him.
Toward the end of November, Don organized a board meeting of his own to discuss CEO Andrew Guy’s failure to act on the woman’s complaints. That meeting is at the center of the board’s allegation that Don threatened Guy. His attorney, Fortier, said that didn’t happen. Instead, he says that Don contacted Guy before the meeting on the advice of two different attorneys that he’d consulted. A few of the employees who had originally talked to Don about the CEO's lack of response to the initial complaint were worried about getting fired; Don advised Guy not to retaliate against them.
The board meeting Don called was surprisingly short. Right after it started, Fortier said that one board member made a "motion to adjourn." Another board member seconded it, and in accordance with Calista’s protocols, that brought the meeting to a standstill. Andrew Guy’s alleged failure to report sexual harassment was never discussed.
Over the next few months, Don said that he started noticing tension among his fellow board members. Then Calista’s Governance Committee unanimously decided that Don had reneged on his duties as a board member. The committee is comprised of Don's fellow board members, and its members are Earl Samuelson Sr., Willie Kasayulie, Paul George Guy, Johnny Evan, and Robert L. Beans.
In March, the board narrowly voted, six-to-five, to remove Wayne Don from his chairmanship and recommended that he resign.
Don’s attorney claims that these attempts to push Don out are entirely political and made by board members allied with Andrew Guy. "Wayne has been crucified in order to try to maintain a sense of dignity and order within Calista," he said. "[He] did everything you’re supposed to do in compliance with your fiduciary duties and more, and this is what he gets for it."
This wouldn’t be the first time that Calista's leadership was shaken by sexual harassment allegations. In 2010, a former Calista employee filed a lawsuit against both Calista and its former CEO, Matthew Nicolai, who she accused of sexually harassing her. Calista fired Nicolai for this behavior that same year. Andrew Guy is his successor.
In an interview with KYUK, Calista spokesperson Thom Leonard said that he had no knowledge of the specific allegations against Don, or Don’s version of the story. The corporation also released a statement on Monday afternoon which reiterated claims that Don had acted improperly and implied that he may not be telling the truth about what happened. It says that board members “shall not knowingly disseminate false or misleading information.”
Despite the public censure and controversy, Wayne Don still refuses to resign from Calista’s board. "I continue to try to serve the best I can," he said. "I have to try to put this this particular issue behind for the shareholders’ benefit and focus on the positive things that we're charged with doing."
He said he hopes to continue to serve the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to the best of his ability. He is up for reelection by Calista’s shareholders in 2019.
Correction: This article originally stated that a former Calista employee filed alawsuit against Matthew Nicholai in 2016, rather than 2010. We regret the error.