Sitnasuak Native Corporation has filed a lawsuit to remove three of its directors for breaking the law.
The legal move is to preserve election integrity, transparency, and the confidence shareholders have in a corporation that has both profit and cultural preservation as its core missions.
The Nome-based corporation says the three breached their fiduciary duties to Sitnasuak and its shareholders when they coordinated and sent anonymous proxy solicitations to corporation shareholders.
If true that would be a violation of Alaska banking and securities law, and is a felony.
The anonymous proxy mailer misinformed Sitnasuak shareholders and damaged the corporation, the lawsuit alleges. It was sent in advance of the June 3 meeting, which failed to reach a quorum and has been rescheduled to Sept. 30 in Anchorage.
The mailer was sent from “SNC Shareholders for Free Speech” to 1,000 shareholders, and did not identify the persons behind the message that backed candidates Barbara Amarok and Helen Bell, and opposed Jason Evans, who was running for his second term. It also gave the readers false and misleading information regarding voting and how the proxy system works, the lawsuit alleges.
Evans is a newspaper publisher of the Homer Tribune, the Arctic Sounder and the Dutch Harbor Fisherman/Bristol Bay Times, and is part of the business group attempting to purchase the Alaska Dispatch News through the newly formed Binkley Company LLC.
One of the three accused of violating the board election process and attempting to remove Evans is Edna Baker, who is a former Division of Elections supervisor. Until last year, Baker oversaw elections in Western Alaska. She retired from her position prior to the voting fraud scandal that rocked District 40 and swung the election from Rep. Ben Nageak to challenger Dean Westlake.
The other two that Sitnasuak is requesting being removed for colluding on the election mailer are Barbara Amarok and Charles Fagerstrom Jr. Chuck Fagerstrom Sr., the former president of the corporation, had been released by the corporation earlier.
“Our number one priority is to protect the rights of all shareholders and we cannot do that if our elections are compromised,” said Sitnasuak Chairman Bobby Evans, who is the brother of Jason Evans. “Today, we must look to the future and work together to protect our shared legacy while strengthening our values.”
The lawyer from Holland & Knight said it was about complying with banking and securities laws: “In order to comply with state securities law, Sitnasuak Native Corporation needed to take appropriate legal actions to protect shareholders’ rights and the integrity of future elections,” said Howard Trickey of the law firm representing Sitnasuak.
The new date for the Sitnasuak annual meeting is Sept. 30. On the agenda is the election of four directors to the board.
Sitnasuak shareholders number more than 2,800 and most originated in Nome and 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.