Eleven candidates vie for four Sealaska board seats

Posted: Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Sealaska shareholders will elect four new members to the board of directors and discuss the corporation's financial future at an annual meeting on June 15 at Centennial Hall.

Four incumbent board members and seven challengers are vying for the four open positions on the 13-member board. The terms are for three years.

Incumbent candidates include Gordon James Sr. of Craig and Byron Mallott, Edward Thomas and Rosita Worl of Juneau.

Independent nominees include James Brouillette Jr. of Haines, Mariah Ellen Cabrera of Oregon City, Ore., Teresa Reyes-Germain of Juneau, Thomas Harris of Anchorage, Sam Kito III of Juneau, William Micklin of Alpine, Calif., and Dominic Joseph Salvato of Anchorage.

Sealaska is the regional corporation representing Southeast Natives, which includes Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian shareholders. The corporation was established in 1971 as part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Of Sealaska's 16,500 shareholders, about 36 percent live in Southeast, 17 percent in other parts of Alaska, 21 percent in Washington state, and another 26 percent live elsewhere.

Some shareholders have argued that the voting structure for Sealaska board members unfairly favors incumbents. Shareholders are allowed votes based on the number of shares they hold and are given the option to cast a "directed" or "discretionary" vote.

A "discretionary" vote allows a set of proxy voters selected by the board to cast the votes for whomever they choose. Sealaska spokesman Ross Soboleff said proxy voters are not selected by board members up for reelection.

Soboleff said that although questions have been raised about the voting structure, shareholders support the method. Resolutions to remove the system of discretionary voting failed on four occasions in the 1990s.

Along with the election, Sealaska President Chris McNeil Jr. will update shareholders on the financial future of the corporation.

Within the last few years Sealaska profits have been at an all-time low. Shareholders will receive $1.1 million in dividends this year - about $1 a share. In 2000, dividends totaled $8 million.

The corporation experienced a $21 million net loss on $146 million in revenue in 2001 - the second year in a row Sealaska has lost money. In 2000 the corporation had a net loss of $122 million on revenues of $72 million, prompting it to lay off 12 employees.

Soboleff said natural resources development has been the foundation of Sealaska since the corporation's beginning.

"Our timber subsidiary has operated for 22 years now," Soboleff said. "Other businesses have come and gone in that time."

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