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Calista board members censured in ethics inquiry

Posted: November 6, 2013 - 1:01am

BETHEL — The Calista Corp. board of directors publicly censured three current and three former members for what it says are ethics violations, asking some to reimburse money, others to resign or both.

The board set the sanctions after a yearlong investigation into improper use of stipends and per diem pay or falsifying meeting minutes, KYUK reported. The current members are being asked to resign from the board.

All six are accused of voting to falsify minutes, while four are also accused of improperly using funds.

The current board members sanctioned are Arthur Heckman, Joann Werning and Michael Akerelrea.

Heckman and Werning said Tuesday that they totally disagreed with the decision, calling it an unfair process that was predetermined before the board members submitted any responses. They said the decision was the result of a dispute among board members rather an attempt to determine what happened. Both said they had no plans to resign.

Akerelrea declined to comment to The Associated Press, other than to say he has not stepped down.

The former members censured are Felix Hess, William Igkurak and Harley Sundown.

Hess could not be reached for comment, and Igkurak referred questions to his attorney, who did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Sundown, who is accused of falsifying minutes, denied all wrongdoing. He said he is considering taking legal action.

Calista is the Alaska Native corporation for the Bethel region. It has more than 12,000 shareholders.

Calista spokesman Thom Leonard said the ethics issue first came up after complaints from shareholders. Altogether, 11 directors were investigated.

“The board hired an outside law firm to perform an exhaustive and comprehensive investigation into all of the directors involved,” Leonard said.

An ethics committee also was involved and said Heckman should reimburse Calista for more than $7,000 in improper spending. Akerelrea was asked to pay $455. Werning was not accused of misusing funds.

Igkurak was asked to repay $2,053 for what the board called excessive per diem spending and improper lodging and car rental spending. The board seeks $559 from Hess. Sundown is not accused of improper use of funds.

Leonard said that during the investigation, the law firm looked at things like corporate records and financial receipts.

“The findings were not reached easily,” he said. “This was a very detailed investigation.”

___

Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org

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