The CEO and President of the Calista Native Corporation was at his desk working on Wednesday afternoon, after more than three months of administrative leave.
The reasons why the Calista board of directors sidelined Andrew Guy remain a mystery. In August, a majority of the board voted to hire a law firm to investigate him. At that time, Calista leaders would not comment on the reasons why -- and would only say that personnel matters are confidential.
But a restructuring of the board took place last weekend during the corporation’s annual shareholder’s meeting in Goodnews Bay, a village on the mouth of the Kuskokwim River in Southwest Alaska. Two board members were voted out, and two new ones were voted in. Guy, who was at the meeting, was given a standing ovation, a sign that his administrative limbo might soon come to an end.
On Wednesday, the new board made it official. It held a special meeting at Calista’s Anchorage headquarters -- and after electing new officers, began the process of reinstating Guy.
First, they had to resolve old business.
“The newly formed board took a look at the investigation,” said Thom Leonard, communications manager for Calista. “They found no merit or cause to the allegations or complaints, so immediately they reinstated Andrew Guy as president of Calista Corporation.”
Leonard says, at this time, the corporation at Guy’s direction is trying to move forward -- and the reasons for his administrative leave will remain confidential.
Leonard says Guy returns to his former job with full authority.
In a written statement Guy made no mention about his exile from management and said the focus needs to return on fulfilling the corporation’s obligations to shareholders and the region.
KTUU’s request for an interview with Guy was declined.
Four board members, including the former chairman, Art Heckman were not present at Wednesday’s special meeting. They were part of the faction which had pushed for Guy’s ouster. Supporters of Guy say this group was unhappy with the CEO’s efforts to streamline the board process and improve accountability – and the rift between Guy and the board stemmed from a dispute over the annual shareholder meeting, which was scheduled for the spring but was postponed until this October.
The new board also terminated Felix Hess’ position as board spokesman. The position was created in August, with an annual $100,000 salary. Hess was secretary of the board but failed to be reelected at Saturday’s shareholder meeting. Earlier, he told KTUU he hoped the board would pursue the investigation. On Wednesday, when reached by telephone, Hess said he had no comment about Guy’s reinstatement.
Leonard says it comes as a relief to employees and will allow them to concentrate on their work and making the corporation successful. Despite the board turmoil, Leonard says the company remains profitable and recently landed a $4.5 million dollar federal defense contract.
Leonard says Guy began meeting with company executives Wednesday afternoon. He also took time out to pose for a photograph with board members and Calista staff.
Mike Williams, a shareholder who headed up a recall effort against two board members who were trying to oust Guy, says he credits the shareholders for restoring the CEO to his job.
“We see so much suffering in our villages. We need a good lead dog,” said Williams. “If you don’t raise your voices, you won’t be heard.”
But one thing Williams would like to hear more about is a full accounting of the circumstances that led to Guy being put on administrative leave. But for now, both factions on the board are keeping quiet about that.
Willie Kasayulie, the new chairman of the board of directors, says he agrees the shareholders deserve to know more about what happened.
Kasayulie acknowledged that board division over Guy arose over disagreement about the corporation's shareholder voting process and control of the proxy vote, which has been an ongoing issue since the corporation's early years.
Kasayulie says the new board has pledged to review the corporation's board of directors election process, a mandate it got from shareholders at its annual meeting. Kasayulike says the board will also look at how other Native corporations handle elections.
"This is all behind us, we need to correctively move forward and work together as a team to bring to Calista to where it was and where it's going," said Kasayulie.