I got asked by a number of people to share my personal opinion, which is
set out below, regarding the dismissal of James from the Board. This took
me far longer to write than I hoped for, and it was very hard to write.
I am not sure if this will change anyone’s mind - in fact, I am afraid that
any story of “James sticking it to the evil Board” or of “James as the
knight in the shining armour, fighting against the tyranny represented by
the Board, the Board’s secrecy and malfeasance” will be hard or impossible
to dispel. Also, although I am an elected Board member, I am regularly
being told off with the false claim that my seat was bought by my employer
- Google - anyway. So how much of what I could say, could really have an
effect on anyone?
But let’s get to the gist of the story: why the heck was James removed?
James actually already said very clearly why he was removed: “My fellow
trustees need no reason beyond lack of trust in me . . . .” Indeed, the
vast majority of the Board lost their trust in James' ability to fulfill
the duties and obligations of a Board member without overstepping his
charter and being an effective and cooperating member of the Board.
I’ll tell you how I experienced it from my point of view: a few weeks ago,
I had to turn to the Board in a confidential and important matter for me.
And while writing my email, I felt that I probably should not write it as
openly and frankly as I would desire; I was unconvinced that it would be
held in confidence. I rewrote the mail because I had concerns about James'
being on the Board, as I had lost my trust in him. This is, I think many
will agree, not a healthy situation.
At the next executive session I raised this issue to the whole Board -
James included. It became clear that I was not the only Trustee who felt
that way. We had a discussion in which we openly discussed this matter.
James was asked, repeatedly, to consider a resignation, but he suggested
that it would not matter whether he resigns or whether he is voted off. I
disagreed with him on this point.
So what were our options at this point? How should we have handled this
unfortunate situation? Should we simply sideline James in all conversations
where the lack of trust or following process is an issue? But if we do so,
sure, all of it would be quieter, and the community and the outside world
would likely never notice anything - but I would have an even bigger issue
with that: if we sidelined a community-elected Board member for basically
their whole term, would the community-elected members truly be sufficiently
represented on the Board according to the spirit of the bylaws? This didn’t
seem like an adequate solution to me.
I am, to be completely frank, rather surprised and also relieved by the
fact that the Board not only acted, but acted decisively - despite knowing
very well that there would be quite some community fallout. The Board was
not afraid to make a hard and likely unpopular decision, because it truly
believes to act in the best effectivity of the Board, and thus also the
best effectivity for the Foundation and the Movement at large. This gives
me hope in this Board.
I saw that James wrote an email where he lists three things he was
supposedly accused of. At least for me, his list does not reflect the
reasons why I voted for his removal. Indeed, in the last few days on the
Board, James apologized to the Board for his previous behaviour. It was
that stated behavior underlying that apology that served as one reason why
I voted as I did. I do not know why James changed his view on these reasons
in the days before and after the vote.
Based on some of the comments I have read, I wanted to explicitly address
these rather, say, interesting conspiracy theories, from my perspective:
-- James was not removed from the Board because he was demanding more
-- James was not removed from the Board because of a difference in opinion
about the strategy of the Foundation.
-- James was not removed from the Board because of difference in opinion or
disagreement about the governance of the Foundation.
-- James was not removed from the Board because he was insisting to see
some documents that the Board was withholding from him
-- James was not removed from the Board because any third party wanted him
removed (like a big pharma company who was unhappy with James on the Board
and was promising a big donation if he is gone - I am just listing this
because it was indeed mentioned.)
-- James was not removed from the Board because he demanded more community
input or was fighting for NPOV.
-- James’ removal had nothing to do with the role and composition of
community-elected vs appointed Board members.
-- James was not removed from the Board because he dared to ask too many
-- James was not removed because he didn’t want to sign an NDA.
As I saw it, James acted out of process, ignored advice and caused
disruption. He sure was not the only Trustee who made mistakes - I also did
- but, in my opinion, he was by far the least cooperative Trustee when the
Board worked hard to fix them. The thing that bothers me most is James'
claim that he was kicked out because of a disagreement about how
transparent the Board should be. This is simply not true. I voted for his
removal because, in my opinion, he was *not* transparent and cooperative
with his fellow Board members.
To make it explicit, I believe that James almost always acted in what he
thought was in the best interest for our community. I qualify this
statement solely because I am not sure about whether his early disclosure
of his dismissal was in the best interests of the movement; in my opinion,
in this case emotion appeared to have won over. But based on my term on the
Board, I believe that all Trustees have acted in what they believe is in
the best interest of the Foundation or the movement.
Why did it have to happen on such a short notice? Because two members of
the Board, Jan-Bart and Stu, were leaving the Board by the end of last
year. We found it completely unfair to burden the new members with such a
decision. It had to be the Board that was actually working with James in
the last six months.
It was, for me, a very painful decision, one, I was tormented over for a
few days, and one that I did not take lightly. I do not care at all about a
possible reelection, and thus I do not care about making popular decisions,
I solely care about deciding what is, for my own conscience, the best
decision for the long term of the Board, of the Foundation, of the
movement, and our mission. I remain convinced that James is a very
productive Wikipedian who has done a lot of good things for our movement,
which makes this decision so much more painful.
I don’t expect anyone to just move on. This came, for most of you, very
unexpected. You did not have the repeated discussions and the background on
this matter. I merely wanted to illustrate how things look from my point of
view and opinion. My largest disappointment is the amount of time and
effort spent on this, instead of working on the actually interesting
things, on reaching more people, and enabling more people to share in the
sum of all knowledge. I understand that some of you will demand more
explanations and/or more changes. But I wonder what kind of changes would
be required to avoid a situation like this - if the rest of the Board loses
the trust in one of its members, how should we handle this?
To all those using the Gregorian calendar, have a happy new year 2016. I am
sorry for the drama this has caused, and I wish that this decision would
have never been necessary.
On Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 1:40 PM, James Heilman <jmh649(a)gmail.com> wrote:
I have begun a reply to the board Q & A here
MD, CCFP-EM, Wikipedian
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