The Calista Regional Native Corporation is hosting its annual meeting on Friday. After months of name-calling and political infighting, shareholders will file into Bethel’s high school gym and decide who should lead their corporation. They couldn't be voting at a more pivotal time.
Calista is embroiled in two lawsuits. The corporation was sued for sexual harassment earlier this week and is also involved in an ongoing lawsuit against its former chairman, Wayne Don, who Calista is trying to forcibly remove from his board seat. Over the past two months, Don and Calista CEO Andrew Guy have accused each other of boardroom coups and lying to shareholders, and Calista’s board members have all picked sides. Today, shareholders will have their first chance to weigh in on the conflict themselves.
Calista’s current power struggle can be traced back to a sexual harassment complaint in 2017. In the lawsuit she filed on Tuesday, Colorado businesswoman Tiffany Phillips claims that she was relentlessly harassed by former Calista executive George Owletuck. He sent her over a thousand text messages, Victoria Secret underwear, and showed up uninvited at her home. Phillips also alleges that CEO Andrew Guy mishandled her complaint when she told him about this behavior. Owletuck is an old friend and political ally of Guy’s, and he was involved in some questionable business dealings before Calista hired him. According to a memo written by Calista’s former Human Resources Director, Owletuck also repeatedly harassed women at Calista while he worked there. Guy has denied that he knew about any of this, but Guy’s critics say that he did.
When Tiffany Phillips told Guy that Owletuck harassed her, he apologized and referred her to another point of contact at Calista. But he didn't report the incident to Human Resources, even though Calista’s Code of Business Ethics and Conduct states that he was supposed to. Guy’s critics, which include former chairman Wayne Don, argue that Guy violated that code to cover for a friend. Guy and his allies insist he didn’t do anything wrong and that Don is manipulating this story in an attempt to grab power for himself.
The two men and their allies have been locked in a power struggle ever since, and Calista’s annual meeting might end it. Four Calista board members are up for re-election on Friday: Robert Beans, JoAnn Werning, Myron Naneng, and Robert Hoffman. Werning, Naneng, and Hoffman are all supporters of former Chairman Wayne Don, and Robert Beans has reliably been voting with CEO Andrew Guy. Shareholders' votes could shift the board’s balance of power in Andrew Guy or Wayne Don’s favor and determine who leads the corporation going forward. Many of Calista’s shareholders have already voted - the corporation encourages early voting - but all votes will be tallied today.
Board seats are not the only issue that Calista shareholders will vote on. Constituents will weigh in on whether Calista should form an Alaska Native Settlement Trust, which should enable shareholders to pay a lower rate when the federal government starts taxing their dividends. And if that wasn't enough, KYUK has also learned that Bethel's Yukon-Kuskokwim River Alliance will be holding a sit-in at the annual meeting at 10 a.m. today. The group will be protesting the Donlin Gold mine, and Calista owns the mineral rights on the land where the mine would be built.