Nathan Awrich wrote:
Reposted from wikien-l - was posted there by mistake!
A single felony conviction is different from multiple felony/other
criminal convictions. It also depends on what the crimes are - some
crimes obviously have profound implications against the character and
judgment of an individual. Even if that isn't the case here, and it
may not be, giving a ex-convict a fresh start is different from hiring
them to operate your company.
I'd like to agree with what someone else wrote - assume good faith is
a principle of life that is included in policy at Wikipedia only
because cynicism has become such a habit, particularly in the United
States. I know I have difficulty adhering to that principle,
especially concerning public figures, but I try!
Thanks to Mike Godwin for clearing up that he and the Foundation are
prevented from commenting in detail.
Perhaps, though, you can answer some general questions?
* Does the Foundation perform criminal background checks on
prospective new hires at any level of responsibility?
* If it does not, can this be explained so that we understand your
reasoning on why it is unnecessary?
* If it does, has it always?
* Have you considered a general policy of informing the community
prior to the anticipated publication of news concerning Wikipedia,
when you have knowledge that would allow you to do so?
Perhaps these are questions that the current Board and counsel are
unable to answer as well, but they are governance issues that might
impact future elections to the Board.
Ah, I knew someone will come to this point :-)
(and I expect to hear this type of comments many times in the future...)
Maybe is it time to remind the difference of roles and responsabilities
between staff and board.
Responsibilities of the Board include:
* determining mission, goals, long-term plans and high level policies of
WMF and its projects
* selecting the Executive Director of the WMF, who oversees its
day-to-day operations, and evaluating his or her performance
ensuring the sustainability of the organization by defining a number of
independent revenue sources
* communicating about the direction and the activities of the WMF to the
* providing oversight to staff with regard to accounting, budgeting, and
* maintaining legal and ethical integrity
* recruiting and orient new board members
* articulating the mission of the WMF in public
Emphatically, the responsibilities of the Board do not include:
* interfering in day-to-day operations, except in emergencies
* setting project-level editorial policies
* resolving basic community disputes
* volunteering in specific areas of regular WMF organizational work
I would like to remind everyone here that we are still a very small
organization, despite taking care of very large and well known projects.
As such, staff is limited.
Unless I am mistaken, when Carolyn started working for us, the only
old-staff members of WMF were Danny, Brion, Tim and Brad. In fall,
Carolyn and Barbara were added.
Brad was ED at that time. The board hires the ED and has authority over
the ED. Then the ED has authority over all staff members (and he is the
one who hires them). In fall 2006, we did not perform criminal
background checks afaik.
Are we doing that now ?
From what I understood, Mike took care of this and this is now being
done. It is fairly recent, the board did not get any report on this, so
I can not further comment.
I am trying to build little by little an annual cycle of board
activities. It is not easy, because we are growing very fast and
activities are not always easy to plan due to growth surges, change of
What I planned for the coming months was
* search for the treasurer (winter)
* developpment of 2008 goals - strategic planning (winter)
* work on the ED evaluation and ED goals for 2008 (winter, to be
approved at february board meeting)
* full financial review (feb board meeting)
* board membership evaluation and election process (feb board meeting)
* full review of personnel policies (april board meeting)
* budget (april board meeting)
* and so on, I will not describe the full year and all details.
I had thought to ask Sue to provide us with a complete report on
personnel for april board meeting, and to give us the opportunity to
review the personnel policies. Why april and not sooner ? Mostly because
Sue is in the middle of hiring and many issues will be still ongoing in
february. I think it makes more sense to wait for april to do that.
It does not mean that no work is being done on these issues by Sue. It
does not mean that nothing is requested from the board. Just a week ago,
I asked Mike to work on a policy related to conflict of interest for the
staff. We already have made that policy at board level several months
ago, and it is successfully implemented. However, the policy at staff
level is a bit broken and was never implemented. I told Mike I would
like him to work on this.
I do agree that a back ground check is necessary on at least some of the
staff members and I'll make sure it be done.
Have you considered a general policy of informing the community prior to
the anticipated publication of news concerning Wikipedia, when you have
knowledge that would allow you to do so?
Honestly... no. To be fair, we do that at the internal level, so part of
the community is often informed in advance. Those who are actually
informed are mostly those involved at organization level.
I would not agree to make it a rule to inform this list prior to
anticipated publication of news, when we are informed. There are a bunch
of reasons for this. Main one is that in case of scandals, we are
usually informed a couple of hours before it breaks, and still looking
for the angle for the official answer. We have hugely improved on this,
but still, we need time to draft something.
Second reason is that this list is public. If we mention something
incomplete or non fully factual here, we know that it can be used
afterwards... the more we become the focus of attention of the press,
the more we have to be careful of what we say in public.
There comes a point when we must balance between telling you guys stuff,
and shutting up to avoid further troubles. Unfortunately. Believe me, I
feel much sorrow sometimes not to be able to comment on things.
But once we start dealing with personnel issues, it involves people
lives and future. We can not treat that lightly.