Nonprofit museum silent on board member accused of sexual misconduct
The University of Alaska banned a retired professor from all university property and events following a Title IX investigation that found decades of sexual misconduct. However, a local nonprofit, for which he's served as a board member and volunteer, has yet to publicly disclose whether he will be allowed to continue his involvement.
A redacted investigative report shows claims of sexual harassment and assault by nine women against former anthropology professor David Yesner were determined to be credible. According to the document, one woman also told investigators that Yesner had her meet him after hours at the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature, where he worked as a volunteer.
He had not told her they would be alone:
"[The woman] felt so concerned and uncomfortable about the situation that she called her mother and told her that if she didn't hear from her within the hour to call APD. She carried her pepper spray. Although [the woman] was not sexually harassed or assaulted in the museum, she was fearful of being in that environment with him based on his reputation and the environment."
In a 2018 interview with KTVA for an unrelated story about the museum, Yesner spoke about the volunteers, including himself.
"Oh, I think they're a big part of the story," he said. "I mean, we're a small but dedicated group. It includes retired professors from the university, others with a definite science background."
The museum is open three days a week, Thursday through Saturday. Its website describes the location as "the hidden gem in Anchorage," and advertises itself as a place for families, field trips and birthday parties.
Earlier this year, the website displayed the names of the museum's board of directors: Kristine Crossen, Rusty Brown, Virginia Moore, David Yesner, Gordon Harper, and Anne Pasch, along with an email address and phone number to use to contact the nonprofit.
After KTVA reported on the Title IX investigation findings against Yesner, news staff reached out to the board of directors using the provided email to ask whether Yesner would be allowed to continue his involvement with the museum. The request did not receive a response, but the names of the board members soon disappeared from the website and were replaced with the words, "coming soon!"
The most recent available tax filing for the museum lists Yesner as the secretary and Kristine Crossen as the president. In subsequent calls to the museum, volunteer staff members said Crossen could answer KTVA's questions, but Crossen never responded.
Crossen is listed as an emerita professor in UAA's Department of Geological Sciences on the university website.
She is also married to Yesner.
State records show the two live together in Chugiak and Yesner has publicly referred to her as his wife. They were also seen eating lunch together at a local Subway this month.
After several weeks of attempting to speak with Crossen, KTVA went to the museum, hoping to ask Crossen whether her husband will remain involved with the organization.
Instead, a volunteer delivered a message for her:
Volunteer: She's busy at the moment, so I don't think she's going to be able to talk.
Reporter: It's really important, I'll wait if I need to. We've tried for several weeks to reach her by email and by phone.
Volunteer: I know, but she's busy and doesn't want to talk.
Reporter: She doesn't want to talk?
Volunteer: She's busy, she doesn't have time.
Shortly after Crossen declined to speak with KTVA, two volunteers were seen leaving in separate cars, one of which belongs to Crossen. When asked why she was taking Crossen's vehicle, the volunteer said Crossen was in a meeting and had asked the volunteer to take her car in to get it serviced. The two volunteers later returned together in the car that wasn't Crossen's.
Hours later, the museum closed and the last volunteer left for the day, but Crossen never left through the front door.
A check of the museum's back exit revealed two chairs, a table and a step ladder. It appeared someone had used the items to climb over the fence into the alley behind the museum.
That same evening, KTVA attempted to contact Crossen at the home she shares with Yesner in Chugiak. Vehicles registered to both of them were in the driveway, including the car a volunteer had removed from the museum for Crossen.
Crossen made it clear she was not willing to answer questions about her husband's involvement in the nonprofit by shutting the door and yelling that she would "call the cops."
KTVA reached out to the National Council of Nonprofits, and asked whether this lack of transparency is acceptable for a nonprofit that relies on funds from the public.
Rick Cohen, chief communications officer and chief operating officer for the NCN, responded:
"All nonprofits, regardless of their funding sources, rely on the public's trust to do their work. It would be reasonable for the people who support that nonprofit - donors, volunteers, other board members, even the people who visit the museum - to ask those questions and, if they don't receive an acceptable answer, to consider whether they should support a different group."
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