The Grand Camp of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and two of its nonprofits were dissolved in June, but not because of recent felony embezzlement charges against the organizations’ chairman, according to the State of Alaska’s Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.
Robert Loescher, former chairman of the Alaska Subsistence Defense Fund and the Alaska Traditional Foods Security Council, is accused of withdrawing $21,515 without authorization, the Juneau Empire reported Sunday.
Kathy Fagerstrom, the Department of Commerce’s corporations and business licensing coordinator, said that the department is not concerned with an organization’s financial information. She said that the above-mentioned nonprofits were just two of 13,877 organizations that were dissolved in the state of Alaska in June.
Last year, the Department of Commerce upgraded its database to allow Fagerstrom to run a simple query to find out which of Alaska’s licensed entities are non-compliant. An entity that’s out of compliance may have failed to file an initial report or, as in the case of the ANB’s dissolved nonprofits, failed to file a biennial report.
After implementing the new database, the department sent out courtesy notices to about 16,000 noncompliant entities in February. Those that didn’t respond by June were dissolved. Many of those organizations were defunct or may have intended to operate in Alaska only for one season, Fagerstrom said. The organizations have up to two years from the date of dissolution to renew their license with the state.
According to an annual report in September from ANB Grand Treasurer James Llanos, the organization was aware of the risk of dissolution earlier in the year.
“I indicated that someone in Juneau needed to go to the State Building and file reports to keep action from happening...” the report states. “Nobody has taken action and it will have to be done in person in Juneau.”
That same report gives details of activity and discussions surrounding the Grand Camps accounts. According to the report, accounts at Wells Fargo and Charles Schwab were updated with new authorized signers Oct. 14, 2012. That November, ANB and Alaska Native Sisterhood past presidents held a meeting to discuss the condition of their accounts and an endowment fund including the “status of finances in the Alaska Legal Defense Fund and the Alaska Traditional Foods Security Council.” Future meetings included discussions on the need for an audit. In January, Llanos was given authorization to review the history of the ANB’s Charles Schawb accounts, according to the annual report.
In June, the report says action was taken to “remove the current Chair” and appoint new directors to the Alaska Subsistence Legal Defense Fund and the Alaska Traditional Foods Security Council. The chair at that time was Loescher.
In September, Llanos reported that he’s discussed the “financial situation” of the two nonprofits with the Alaska State Troopers in Ketchikan. He had the same conversation with the Juneau Police Department and filed the report against Loescher.
The two nonprofits Loescher is accused of taking money from were started in 2010 with seed money from Southeast’s regional Native corporation Sealaska. Vice President of Communications Nicole Hallingstad said “It’s regrettable to hear about the activity around these two funds, but Sealaska, as always, remains committed to the defense of subsistence and the protection of traditional foods.”
• Contact reporter Jennifer Canfield at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/canfieldjenn.
Correction: A previous version of this story identified Nicole Hallingstad as the communications director for Sealaska. We've corrected the story to reflect her correct title. Hallingstad was also quoted in the previous version as saying "...Sealaska, as always, remains committed to the defense of subsistence and the defense of traditional foods.” Hallingstad says that she said "...Sealaska, as always, remains committed to the defense of subsistence and the protection of traditional foods.” We've updated our story to reflect this.