Amarok Is Sitnasuak’s New Board Chair; Leaders Say Corporation Has ‘Evolved’ Since Lawsuit

Polar bear in front of Sitnasuak Native Corporation building in Nome.

Sitnasuak Native Corporation (SNC) has appointed new members to its Board of Directors, including a named defendant from a previous lawsuit filed by the Corporation. SNC leadership says Sitnasuak has “evolved” since the litigation and is moving forward in a healthy way.

During the 45th annual shareholder meeting at the beginning of this month (June 1), Barbara Qasuglana Amarok was selected as Sitnasuak’s new Chair of the Board of Directors. Amarok has served in leadership positions with SNC since 2011. But in 2017, the Corporation filed a lawsuit alleging Amarok had breached her fiduciary duties along with two other directors on the Board.

Eight months later, the lawsuit was resolved, and Charles Fagerstrom resigned from the Board of Directors. The settlement was made outside of court and did not mention action taken against Amarok or the other defendants.

“Subsequent to the settlement, we’ve been able to hold two elections in a very constructive and positive environment. Lessons were learned, we’ve adjusted our processes, and we’re finding constructive ways to move forward.”

That was Sitnasuak’s CEO and President, Bobbi Quintavell. As she mentioned, during SNC’s last two elections since the lawsuit first began, the Corporation seems to have addressed concerns over whether or not their elections and proxy voting were by the book.

Quintavell describes the series of events over the past two years as an example of evolution.

“There’s a prescription for which corporations survive, arrive, live, breathe, evolve — everything evolves. And in the case of, in our recent history, the settlement agreement allowed for not just continued participation but continued contribution by those directors. And I think what you see is an evolution of that relationship.”

Amarok could not be reached for comment before the airing of this story, but in a written statement, she praised the Corporation’s progress. She said, “as a board, it is our responsibility to listen to what Shareholders have to say, and I will continue to place them at the forefront of every decision I make as Chair.”

During SNC’s recent meeting, the shareholders also voted on four members of the 11 on the board of directors. Ukallaysaaq Okleasik, vice president of corporate affairs, says these gentlemen will hold their seats for three years.

“And two directors got re-elected: that was Andrew C. Miller, Jr., and Joel (Jay) A. Craft, Jr. Two newly elected members were LieuDell (Ayaaq) Goldsberry and Joseph or Joe Garnie.”

Although just over 50% of shares were represented at Sitnasuak’s 45th annual meeting in Nome, many shareholders do not live in the area. Okleasik says SNC is using social media and other tools to engage with its membership.

“At the meeting itself, I believe we had just over 200 people sign in, and I think we had about another 200 that viewed it on webcast. I know we had more people that followed it on social media. From our total base of about 2,900, we have about 10 or 15 percent that can actually come in person and attend. So, it’s important to vote by proxy, and we always encourage shareholders to exercise their right to vote and make sure they cast their proxy.”

Despite skepticism and the previous controversy surrounding proxy voting, the Corporation continues to support its shareholders to exercise their right to vote (using proxies, ballots, or other approved and legal methods). Before Quintavell arrived at Sitnasuak in May of 2017, the Corporation didn’t even have the option to vote online. She says without former Chairman Bobby Evans, SNC would not have the same abilities or platform it has today.*

Now that a new Chair has been selected, Sitnasuak hopes to be saying the same thing about Barb Amarok, whenever her tenure as Board Chair is over.

*Bobby Evans held the position as Board Chair since 2013. According to SNC, even without that position, he will keep a seat on the Board of Directors through the 46th annual meeting. Sitnasuak has already scheduled the next annual meeting for this November in Nome.

Image at top: Detail of the Sitnasuak Native Corporation building on Front Street in Nome. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM file.