In the following I want to present a personal account of events leading to
James’ removal as a Board member, as I remember them. It was written while
I was still on the Board, and the Board agreed on having it sent. The text
was heavily discussed and edited amongst members of the Board, but in the
end it remains my personal account. I realize that it potentially includes
post-factum sensemaking, affecting my recollection of events.

October 1 and 2 2015, Dariusz, James, Patricio and I received phone calls
from a small number of Wikimedia Foundation staff expressing concerns about
the Foundation. They asked explicitly for confidentiality. I wanted to
approach the whole Board immediately, but due to considerations for
confidentiality, the sensitive nature of the topic, and the lack of an HR
head at the time, the others decided against at this moment. Effectively,
this created a conspiracy within the Board from then on for the following
weeks.

With Patricio’s approval, Dariusz and James started to personally collect
and ask for reports from staff. Unfortunately, this investigation was not
formally approved by the whole Board. It was also conducted in a manner
that would not secure a professional and impartial process. After a few
weeks, we finally reached out to the rest of Board members. They
immediately recognized the necessity for a separate formal task force which
was set up very quickly.

The formal task force was created end of October. This task force involved
outside legal counsel and conducted professional fact finding. The first
request of the task force to the Board members was to ask for all documents
and notes pertaining to the case. Unfortunately, although there has been
more than a week of time, this has not happened in full.

The task force presented its result at the November Board meeting, where it
was discovered during the second day of the Board meeting that the previous
investigation has not provided all available information. Thus, the fact
finding had to be extended into the Board meeting. At the Board meeting
itself, James in particular was repeatedly asked to share his documents,
which only happened on the very last day of the retreat and after several,
increasingly vigorous requests. Some members of the Board were left with an
impression that James was reluctant to cooperate, even though it was
expected that since he participated in an investigation done in an improper
manner, that he would be more collaborative to make up for these mistakes.

Due to that lack of transparency and information sharing, the Board retreat
in November turned out to be extremely ineffective. If we had all
information that was gathered available to the Board in due time, and if
that information was gathered more openly in the first place, the Board
could have acted more effectively.

I was worried that the confidentiality of the Board would not be
maintained, and I was particularly worried about James’ lack of
understanding of confidential matters, a perception also fueled by his
noncooperation and conduct. Some of his behaviour since unfortunately
confirmed my worries. I raised this as an issue to the Board.

While discussing the situation, James remained defensive, in my eyes
answered questions partially, and, while formally expressing apologies,
never conveyed that he really took ownership of his actions or understood
what he did wrong. This lead to a malfunctioning Board, and in order to fix
the situation I suggested James’ removal.

I voted for James’ removal from the Board because of his perceived
reluctance to cooperate with the formal investigation, his withholding of
information when asked for, his secrecy towards other Board members, even
once the conspiracy was lifted, and him never convincingly taking
responsibility for and ownership of his actions and mistakes. This is why I
get triggered if he positions himself as an avatar of transparency. The
whole topic of the Knowledge Engine - although it played a part in the
events that lead to the November meeting - did not, for me, in any way
influence the vote on James’ removal. It was solely his conduct during and
following the November meeting.

I am glad to see that, since James’ removal until I left, the Board has
been functioning better.

I hope that this account helps a little bit towards renewing our culture of
transparency, but even more I hope for understanding. The Board consists of
volunteers and of humans - they cannot react in real-time to events, as the
Board was never set up to do so. Trustees - myself included - made
mistakes. By opening up about them, I hope that we can facilitate a faster
and more complete healing process, and also have this knowledge and
experience available for future Board members and the community.

Denny
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