Sealaska shareholders are deciding whether to impose term limits on the corporation’s board members. The regional Native corporation’s tribal members are also considering nine candidates for four board seats. They include an incumbent who has lost the board’s support.
If approved, the term-limits measure would make incumbent board members step down after three, three-year terms. And they could never run again.
It was proposed by shareholder and board candidate Mick Beasley, who’s highly critical of the corporation’s management.
Sealaska General Counsel and Corporate Secretary Jaeleen Araujo said the board opposes the measure.
“I know there have been past resolutions provided by Mr. Beasley that were longer, four terms. And so three terms for sitting board members, they just felt that three terms felt very short,” she said.
Araujo said the panel also disagrees with keeping former board members off the board indefinitely. She said a better approach would be a cooling-off period before they can run again.
She also said the Juneau-headquartered corporation would lose important knowledge and history under term limits.
“There is recognition that no other regional corporation in the state has term limits, because of that stability and experience being important,” she said.
Sealaska’s board has opposed previous term-limits measures. It’s also been against efforts to eliminate or modify discretionary voting. That’s when shareholders give the board the power to cast their ballots.
Beasley, a Juneau carver, has authored other term-limits and discretionary-voting measures in recent years.
“Right now, 40 years of the Sealaska Corp. has benefitted very few. And that’s all because of our election system,” he said.
Five other shareholders are also running for the board as independents. What’s unusual this year is that one is an incumbent who was kicked off the slate of board-endorsed candidates.
“I have been outspoken about the poor financial performance of Sealaska,” said Patrick Anderson, an Anchorage attorney He points to the regional Native corporation’s many years of operational losses when he criticizes managers.
A board member for more than 20 years, he said he’s been advocating a system called Lean Management, which focuses on increasing value and eliminating waste. Versions have been used by hospitals, the auto industry and Sealaska’s former plastics subsidiary.
“We really need to learn how to operate companies. Lean Management is how many, many, many other outstanding companies in the world have done it,” he said.
Corporate Secretary Araujo said she can’t speak to the decision to exclude Anderson because it was made by the board in an executive session. Board President Joe Nelson could not be reached for immediate comment.
Bumping Anderson off the board slate leaves it with only three endorsed candidates for four seats.
One is Inside Passage Electric Cooperative CEO Jodi Mitchell. Another is National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Johnson Pata. The third is Tlingit and Haida Business Corporation CEO Richard Rinehart.
Oregon Consultant Vikki Mata, a former Sealaska communications vice president, said the open seat is unusual.
“This year is an opportunity for an independent candidate to be elected, which we have not seen (often) in the past, to have that open seat available,” she said.
That happened two years ago when Byron Mallott stepped down to run for office. But otherwise, most board openings are filled with appointees, who then run as incumbents.
In addition to Beasley and Anderson, four other independents are running for the board.
They include carver Doug Chilton, financial advisor Brad Fluetsch and Bartlett Regional Hospital Controller Karen Taug. The remaining independent is former Sealaska Corporate Secretary Nicole Hallingstad, now operations director for the National Congress of American Indians.
Fluetsch is among candidates critical of Sealaska management. He takes issue with the latest annual report, which describes business growth.
“You’re not seeing the improvement that you read about and the smiley faces would indicate,” he said.
He said the report shows how Sealaska remains in the red without money from other corporations’ resource developments.
Sealaska just announced the purchase of a minority share of a Seattle seafood processing plant. It’s expected to announce an ocean-monitoring business investment next.
Fluetsch said plans for additional businesses won’t help.
“They are banking that the acquisitions that they’re supposed to announce over the next couple weeks (are) going to save them. And it’s never happened before. Never. So as a shareholder who’s been around the block, I don’t think this one’s going to work out any better than the other ones,” he said.
Shareholders are in the process of voting. Results will be announced during Sealaska’s annual meeting, beginning at 1 p.m. June 25 at the Ketchikan High School Gymnasium.