Hi folks, I want to let you know that as of this Friday, October 22, 2010, Mike Godwin will be leaving his role as General Counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation. Mike’s transition out of the role will be a fairly lengthy one: he will continue to be available to the Wikimedia Foundation to provide information and advice for several months to come.
The search for his successor will begin immediately. It's being conducted by the recruiting firm m|Oppenheim. There's a detailed Q and A below that I hope will answer any questions you've got. Thanks, Sue Why is Mike leaving the Wikimedia Foundation? Mike leaving the Wikimedia Foundation is a confidential personnel issue, and the Wikimedia Foundation doesn’t talk about confidential personnel issues with anyone except the people directly involved. We want to handle this kind of thing with respect for people’s privacy and dignity, and we are hopeful we can do that in this instance. That means, we’re not going to answer this question, and we hope you will understand why. Is Mike leaving the Wikimedia Foundation because of a change in direction or policy, related to our legal context? No. Is Mike leaving the Wikimedia Foundation over a point of principle? For example, because the Wikimedia Foundation wants to do something that he disagrees with, or because it doesn’t want to do something that he thinks it should do? No. We’re not aware of any significant differences of opinion between Mike and the Wikimedia Foundation, in terms of values, principles, ethics, future plans, or anything like that. Is Mike leaving the Wikimedia Foundation because he did something egregious? Not at all. The Wikimedia Foundation believes Mike has always acted in what he believes to be the Wikimedia Foundation’s best interests. What is Mike going to do next? We don’t know what he’ll end up doing next, but we wish him all the best, and we hope that he will continue to do the same kind of work he’s always done -- helping to advance people’s online freedoms. We think he’s really good at that work, and we hope it’s what he continues to do. I like Mike, and I know that it’s a tough economy. Can I ask what the Wikimedia Foundation is doing to ensure that Mike is okay while he figures out his next steps? Yes. The Wikimedia Foundation and Mike have figured out severance that we all hope will protect Mike and give him time to think about what he wants to do next. The terms of the severance are confidential: we won’t talk about them now, or in the future. But you can rest assured that the Wikimedia Foundation wants to see Mike continue working to advance people’s online freedoms: everybody would like to see him continue making an important contribution. How will a new General Counsel be recruited? The Wikimedia Foundation has hired m|Oppenheim to help us recruit a new General Counsel. m|Oppenheim has done great work for us in the past: they helped us recruit Zack Exley, Barry Newstead and Cyn Skyberg, and they are currently helping us find a Director of Technical Operations. We’ve been happy with them, and we’re confident they’ll be able to help us successfully recruit a new General Counsel. Who will be involved in the hiring process and how will it work? Currently, m|Oppenheim is developing a job description for the role. To that end, they’ve spoken with a number of board members, the Executive Director, and some of the senior staff. At the same time, m|Oppenheim is also developing a list of people to contact who might be interested in the role, or who might know people who would be. (This list includes people at all kinds of ideologically-like-minded organizations, such as the EFF, Berkman, our Advisory Board, and so forth, as well as people at large internet companies such as Google, eBay, etc.) That “connector” list is being developed in consultation with several board members, the ED and senior staff. By October 22nd, m|Oppenheim expects to have the job description posted publicly, and will begin generating a list of potential candidates. Once a candidate pool is developed, interviews will be held. The interviewing process will likely include at a minimum Sue Gardner, Erik Moeller, Cyn Skyberg, Kat Walsh, Arne Klempert, and Barry Newstead. There will probably also be others involved (e.g., possibly additional board members, and possibly additional members of the senior staff), but that’s the skeleton plan we have right now. We will also aim to get a sampling of the legal needs of various stakeholder parties such as chapters, probably by asking m|Oppenheim to interview two or three chapters representatives and other relevant stakeholders. If I am interested in the role, or know someone who might be, what should I do? We welcome applications, and we also welcome ideas about where we might find good candidates. Feel free to get in touch with Lisa Grossman at m|Oppenheim, at li...@moppenheim.com. She’d be glad to hear from you. Will the new General Counsel job description be significantly different from Mike’s? No. m|Oppenheim is having conversations with stakeholders about the General Counsel role, and will update the job description based on those conversations. But we don’t expect the resultant job description to be substantially different from the existing one. What is the gist of the General Counsel job? Our General Counsel role is slightly unusual, in that it has a bit of a double focus. First, the Wikimedia Foundation (and the Wikimedia movement) are ideologically-motivated -- or if you prefer, values-driven/agenda-driven. That means we need a lawyer who shares Wikimedia’s ideological agenda: who, for example, supports people’s right to access information online unimpeded by censorship, and who supports a legal context that enables people to work collaboratively online to develop educational and informational materials for other people to read. And second, the Wikimedia Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in the United States that operates international web properties, and interacts with non-American chapter organizations. To that end, we need a lawyer who can be responsible for all the legal terrain implied by that: somebody who understands the legal issues relevant to the operation of a big website, to the operation of a US-based non-profit organization, to the legal transfer of funds among various international entities, and so forth. Clearly no single person can be an expert in all of that. Which tells us that we need a General Counsel who is 1) ideologically-aligned with our work, and 2) capable of effectively outsourcing specialized legal work to others, and ensuring it gets done well, consistent with our vision, values and goals. How long will it take before there is a new General Counsel in place? We’re expecting a new General Counsel would likely start work sometime in January. It’s possible the search would take longer, and we won’t hire anyone until we have a candidate we’re happy with. But past searches suggest to us that we can likely expect the search to wrap up in January, or shortly afterward. Who will look after the Wikimedia Foundation’s legal interests in the interim? We’re currently talking with outside counsel that we’ve worked with in the past to establish an interim presence to help us during the General Counsel search time frame. We should have that in place by the end of this week. If I get a legal complaint or have a question that in the past I would have forwarded to Mike, where should I now be sending it? All legal information should be submitted in the same way that you are doing so now: any changes to the process will be handled further downstream. Is it dangerous, for the Wikimedia Foundation to be legally exposed during this period? Obviously it would be ideal for us to have a General Counsel in place consistently, with no interruption, and we wish that Mike had been able to agree to stay on with us during the recruitment process. Having said that, we’ve taken steps to protect Wikimedia, and we believe we will be well-protected in the interim period. We believe that because 1) the Wikimedia movement in general has developed some pretty solid legal understanding over the years, which includes robust processes for handling legal threats and problems of various kinds. There is a good infrastructure for handling certain types of legal risks, that’s not entirely dependent on a General Counsel for day-to-day operations. 2) Over the past several years, we’ve developed good relationships with a number of lawyers with specific subject-matter expertise that we need. Those relationships will be helpful for us in the interim period until a new GC arrives. 3) For the transition period, we are lining up a good generalist lawyer, who we’ve worked with in the past, and who has agreed to be the Wikimedia Foundation’s single-point-of-contact for support until there’s a new General Counsel in place. And 4) Mike has agreed to be available to the Wikimedia Foundation for advice and support, for many months to come. So all in all, we think the risk has been acceptably mitigated. How was this Q and A document developed? This document was written mostly by Sue Gardner, with some help from Cyn Skyberg. It was reviewed in detail by Mike, and he's agreed to have it published. Why was this Q and A document developed? We know that whenever someone leaves the Wikimedia Foundation, there are always lots of questions. And we know that people have sometimes been dissatisfied with how short and uninformative our answers are. We sympathize with people who want to know what’s going on. This Q and A is an attempt to balance Mike’s right to privacy, against people’s desire to understand what’s going on, particularly because Mike is in a high-profile role, and is well-known inside the Wikimedia community. We wouldn’t have published it without Mike’s permission. In general, when people leave the Wikimedia Foundation, they make the decision about how much to say, when and to whom. So you should assume, whenever anyone leaves, that what’s being said is what they’re comfortable with: no more, no less. If I have additional questions that aren’t answered here, where should I take them? If you have questions about the General Counsel role, please feel free to ask them in any regular forum (e.g., foundation-l, internal-l) and Sue or someone else will get them answered. -- Sue Gardner Executive Director Wikimedia Foundation 415 839 6885 office 415 816 9967 cell Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. Help us make it a reality! http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate _______________________________________________ Please note: all replies sent to this mailing list will be immediately directed to Foundation-L, the public mailing list about the Wikimedia Foundation and its projects. For more information about Foundation-L: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l _______________________________________________ WikimediaAnnounce-l mailing list WikimediaAnnounceemail@example.com https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimediaannounce-l