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 _______________________________________________ Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines New messages to: Wikimediaemail@example.com Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l, <mailto:wikimedia-l-requ...@lists.wikimedia.org?subject=unsubscribe>