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We Build Alaska

Former Bering Straits employee who was sexually harassed files two lawsuits against Bering Straits

In June, the Landmine ran a story titled, “Sexual harassment allegation and investigation led to corporate shake-up at Bering Straits Native Corporation,” detailing the resignation of now-former board chair Lee Ryan from the board of directors of Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC) in December 2022.  While BSNC publicly stated Ryan’s removal as chair was due to his desire to focus more time on his family’s business, the truth was his ouster had more to do with a board-initiated investigation into a sexual harassment complaint against him.

Two months after Ryan resigned, the board voted unanimously to remove Gail Schubert as CEO. Schubert still serves on the board. Schubert, who saw Ryan as an ally, had voted for Ryan for board chair last October even though she was aware of the complaint against him by a now-former female executive. Now there’s more to the story.

The target of Ryan’s harassment has now sued BSNC. The former female executive, who is listed as Jane Doe in two lawsuits – which were filed in Nome – had threatened litigation over the summer. But according to sources within Bering Straits, she ended up reaching a high, six-figure settlement with Bering Straits that also required her to leave her job.

Now, one of the lawsuits alleges that Bering Straits withdrew their settlement offer. According to the lawsuit, “On September 26, 2023, BSNC, by and through its attorney, conveyed in essence (emphasis added) that BSNC no longer intended to treat the June 7, 2023 contract as enforceable and was ‘withdraw[ing]’ its offer upon which the June 7, 2023 contract was based.” That suit is asking the court to enforce the original agreement.

It is unclear what BSNC’s attorney said that was “in essence” a withdrawal of BSNC’s agreement to make payment under the settlement agreement. Josh Fannon, who is representing the woman, did not respond to an email or phone call asking to clarify what “in essence” meant.

Bering Straits’ recently announced Danielle Ryman as their new general counsel and senior vice president. She did not return a phone call asking for comment on the lawsuits. Interestingly, Ryman was previously the managing partner for Perkins Coie’s Anchorage office. Perkins Coie was the firm the Bering Straits board hired to conduct the investigation into the sexual harassment complaints against Lee Ryan.

Mary Pate, their former general counsel and senior vice president, was let go sometime after the June Landmine story came out.

The other lawsuit alleges that she had an offer with another company pulled after “one or more members of the BNSC Board leaked Jane Doe’s confidential information to an unauthorized third person in violation of BSNC’s promise to keep the information confidential.” It goes on to say, “As a direct result of the leak of Jane Doe’s confidential information on or after June 7, 2023, by one or more of BSNC’s Directors, the blogger who received the leaked information published the confidential information on-line.” Presumably, this publication is what the lawsuit is referencing as “the blogger.”

That suit is asking for compensatory damages, “the exact amount to be determined by a jury at trial,” as well as punitive damages.

This is a developing story. More updates will be posted as they become available.

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8 months ago

Don’t you have any respect for a person’s privacy? Exactly how is this “in the public interest”?

8 months ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Have to say, the members of the Bering Straits board didn’t respect her privacy either. They initiated an investigation then blabbed about it.

8 months ago

Again, more evidence and detail in this article that indicate someone on the board is still leaking information. Given Alaska’s culture of sexual and emotional violence against women it is very concerning that board members would leak confidential information that would be damaging to her career and mental health. Again, I call on board resignations as it’s clear that there is a toxic culture that’s full of manipulation and conspiracy. Our Native Corporations should be uplifting our people and culture, not magnifying the worst parts of it.

Concerned Shareholder
8 months ago

It’s obvious that the board is leaking information on this story. It’s extremely concerning that this level of detail is being shared with a news outlet at the expense of this person’s privacy.

Concerned Alaska Nar
8 months ago

The former CEO protected their allies over protecting victims. We need Native leaders who do what is right for the community, prioritizing the needs of others over their own agendas.

8 months ago

Gail Schubert should not be on the Board. A unanimously vote is telling.

8 months ago

Schubert, who saw Ryan as an ally, had voted for Ryan for board chair last October even though she was aware of the complaint against him by a now-former female executive. Now there’s more to the story.

Rat Pack
8 months ago

Gail Schuberts husband is a registered sex offender. Go figure

7 months ago
Reply to  Rat Pack

This makes more sense now.

5 months ago

Yeah. The second lawsuit is a direct result of YOUR (Jeff Landfield’s) invasion of Jane Doe’s privacy, along with a board leaking privileged information. You’re an inconsiderate asshole, along with the board member(s) that leaked it.