Former employee files lawsuits against BSNC

An anonymous former Bering Straits Native Corporation employee identified as “Jane Doe” filed two civil lawsuits with the Nome court in late September. At the heart of the lawsuits are allegations of a breach of contract between Doe and BSNC and that BSNC leaked confidential information.
According to court documents, the BSNC employee had worked for the corporation for many years and reached a leadership position. Then something occurred in the second judicial district at an unspecified time that was not spelled out but qualified Nome as the proper venue to file the lawsuits.
“Unfortunately, in the course of her employment [...], she became a victim of various acts by BSNC Leadership, causing her to make confidential complaints of harm to BSNC through its agents and representatives,” court documents read.
The lawsuits don’t spell out  the nature of the complaints or BSNC’s handling of them.
However, on June 7, BSNC and the employee entered into an enforceable contract that presumable offered remedy to the complaints. One lawsuit alleges that the BSNC on September 26 “by and through its attorney, conveyed in essence that BSNC no longer intended to treat the June 7, 2023 contract as enforceable and was withdrawing its offer upon which the June 7, 2023 contract was based.” While one of the lawsuits centers on the allegation that BSNC breached the contract, the other lawsuit alleges that a leak of confidential information by one or more BSNC directors caused additional harm to Jane Doe.
The complaint of the second lawsuit alleges that BSNC promised to keep certain information confidential, but “one or more members of the BSNC Board leaked Jane Doe’s confidential information to an unauthorized third person in violation of BSNC’s promise.”
The third person was not identified by name but referred to as a blogger who published an article online that detailed the backstory to the corporate shakeup within BSNC leadership earlier this year.  
The blogger is Jeff Landfield, who published a story at the Alaska Landmine online publication in June titled, “Sexual harassment allegation and investigation led to corporate shake-up at Bering Straits Native Corporation.” The article detailed the backstory of the ouster of board member Lee Ryan and in May long-time CEO and President Gail Schubert. The publication of the information caused it to become entangled in the further development of events surrounding Jane Doe.
 In June, based on the description by inside sources to Landfield that were not independently verified by The Nome Nugget, Landfield wrote that BSNC board member Lee Ryan’s resignation in December 2022 was not motivated, as stated in a BSNC press release, to devote more time to his family’s business. Instead, the resignation came at the heels of a sexual harassment complaint against him that triggered an investigation, done by the international law firm Perkins Coie. In the wake of the investigation, BSNC announced its separation from Schubert as CEO but her staying on as a member of the board.
One of the lawsuits filed alleges that BSNC’s leak of the confidential information and the subsequent publication of the information caused Jane Doe to lose an attractive job offer. Landfield also wrote in a follow-up article reporting on the lawsuits that Jane Doe had negotiated a six-figure settlement with BSNC that included her resignation from the corporation.
The lawsuit claims that as a result of BSNC’s leak of Jane Doe’s confidential information on or after June 7, Jane Doe suffered a substantial economic loss and emotional distress and invasion of her privacy “as her leaked confidential information became the subject of gossip and speculation.”
The blogger did not identify Jane Doe.
The lawsuit asks for compensatory damages, in the amount to be determined by a jury at trial, punitive damages and the attorney’s fees and costs.
When asked for comment, BSNC’s new Director of External Affairs and Public Relations Marleanna Hall wrote in an email response, “We appreciate the opportunity to share our perspective on the lawsuits. BSNC strongly denies the allegations in the complaints, and we believe that the claims lack merit. We look forward to addressing these matters in court shortly. BSNC is not alarmed by this legal challenge, and we will continue to focus on our mission of improving the quality of life of Our People through economic development while protecting our land and preserving our culture and heritage.”


The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

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