A legal dispute within the Sitnasuak Native Corporation Board of Directors, which has prevented it from holding legally required meetings, has ended with the resignation of a board member.
The settlement began last summer, when the corporation filed a lawsuit against four board members after an anonymous mailer was sent to 1,000 shareholders. The mailer didn’t identify that board members Edna Baker, Barbara Amarok, and Charles Fagerstrom were leading the charge to oust another board member, Jason Evans.
The corporation said the mailer gave false and misleading information about how voting and proxy ballots work in the corporation voting process.
The mailer had been sent in advance of the June 3, 2017 meeting. That board meeting failed to reach a quorum, and subsequent board meetings were postponed while the lawsuit was in play.
Now, one of the board members who was a subject of the corporation’s complaint will resign as part of the settlement. Charles E. Fagerstrom is still listed on the corporation’s web site as a board member, but his resignation is part of the settlement that allows the Nome-based Native corporation’s 44th annual meeting to proceed this summer, and then a 45th annual meeting will be held in Nome.
The corporation made no mention of why it did not require the other two board members involved in the anonymous mailer to resign.
“The settlement resolves many months of conflict and provides a framework for positive and meaningful cooperation,” accordion to a press release from the corporation.
“Since the start of this action, we were always looking for a resolution,” said Chairman Bobby Evans. “We still have a lot of work to do, but now we can move forward.”
Sitnasuak filed a lawsuit around the question of protecting shareholder voting rights and maintaining fair and uncorrupted elections. Jason Evans, the board member that the three were trying to oust, is a co-owner of the Anchorage Daily News. He was unavailable for comment.
“This settlement agreement gives us all a chance to begin anew in the election process,” said Chairman Evans. “All parties agreed that shareholders have the right to receive truthful information in exercising their voting rights. This has always been about protecting shareholder voting rights and this agreement also states our shared understanding on the legality of discretionary voting and fair elections. We welcome this agreement and look forward to what we can accomplish working together.”
In this do-over election, which will be held a year after the one that became entangled in the lawsuit, shareholders will be required to resubmit proxies. Sitnasuak will also update election rules, which will be distributed to Shareholders.
“This is good news,” said President and CEO Bobbi Quintavell. “Sitnasuak had another good year in 2017 and this lets us focus on Sitnasuak’s businesses and our great employees. We thank our shareholders for their patience in this process.”
Among the larger subsidiaries that the Sitnasuak holding company owns is SNC Technical Services, which is located in Puerto Rico and manufactures apparel for the US military. It also owns Bonanza Fuel and other enterprises.
Sitnasuak shareholders number more than 2,800. Most originated in Nome or other villages in the Bering Strait region of Northwest Alaska. The are Iñupiaq, Yup’ik and St. Lawrence Island Yupiks. The corporation paid more than $2 million in economic benefits to shareholders in 2016, including special elder dividends, bereavement benefits, heating fuel and rent discounts, and regular dividends.