BSNC faces two lawsuits from former employee

This story contains discussions of sensitive subject matter related to sexual assault.

A former Bering Straits Native Corporation employee whose sexual harassment complaint reportedly led to the resignation of BSNC’s board chair is now suing the corporation.

The sexual harassment apparently occurred years ago, and the allegations were first reported in the Alaska Landmine blog in June. The former employee, named Jane Doe in her two lawsuits filed this fall, now accuses the corporation of breaking a contract it had with her and leaking confidential information to the blog.

According to the lawsuits linked in the Alaska Landmine story, Jane Doe was a longtime employee of Bering Straits Native Corporation and worked for its executive leadership team.

The Landmine story reported that anonymous sources – who were not independently verified by KNOM – said Ryan went to Doe’s hotel room during a business trip years prior and attempted to initiate an intimate encounter. Doe declined and reported the incident to her superiors, according to the Landmine.

According to one of her lawsuits, Doe “became a victim of various acts by BSNC Leadership, causing her to make confidential complaints of harm to BSNC through its agents and representatives.”

The lawsuit says BSNC signed a contract with Doe in June [June 7] that promised to keep certain information related to the complaints confidential, but her information was leaked by at least one BSNC board member to an unauthorized third person, referenced in the lawsuit as “the blogger.” 

The blogger is Alaska Landmine publisher Jeff Landfield, who wrote that Doe’s sexual harassment allegations against Lee Ryan, the former BSNC board chair and president of Ryan Air, had resurfaced this year and led to Ryan’s resignation from the board in December of 2022, just two months after he joined it.

Ryan’s resignation announcement said he was stepping away to devote more time to his family’s business.

The suit claims that after Landmine published the story, Doe had a job offer withdrawn from an unidentified company. The suit says she suffered emotional distress, economic loss and the invasion of her privacy and that she is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney’s costs and fees.

Just 12 days before the contract in June, BSNC announced Gail Schubert would be stepping down as the corporation’s president and CEO but that she would still serve on its board. The announcement didn’t mention the investigation or elaborate on the circumstances of the separation.

Bering Straits Native Corporation Director of External Communications Marleanna Hall denied the allegations in the lawsuits.

In an emailed statement, Hall said BSNC looked forward to addressing the allegations in court. “BSNC is not alarmed by this legal challenge,” she said. “And we will continue to focus on our mission of improving the quality of life of Our People through economic development while protecting our land and preserving our culture and heritage.”

Hall declined to comment further.

BSNC President Dan Graham did not respond to a request for comment.

Lee Ryan did not respond to a message left late Wednesday.

Photo at top: Bering Straits Native Corporation sign at the office location in Anchorage. (Ava White/KNOM)