[Foundation-l] Foundation Discretion on Personnel Matters

Mike Godwin mgodwin at wikimedia.org
Sat Dec 15 13:42:55 UTC 2007

Nathan writes:

>  Perhaps, though, you can answer some general questions?
> * Does the Foundation perform criminal background checks on
> prospective new hires at any level of responsibility?

We have put a policy in place in the last couple of months, and we  
have contracted with a background-check firm to conduct checks for us.

> * If it does, has it always?

No.  This does not disturb me, however, since quite a few startups  
(profit or nonprofit) that undergo rapid success and growth don't have  
a framework of policies and procedures to start with. We're at a point  
now where staff is working to create that framework -- this is a  
problem all new and growing organizations face.

(I don't think EFF, when I was there, did criminal background checks  
for the first nine years of its existence -- we were operating on a  
shoestring for much of that period.)

> * 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?

I think informing the community whenever possible is not only helpful  
but potentially quite efficient. In this instance, however, we had a  
very short time span, and we also didn't know enough about what was  
going to be published to be able to prepare the community for what  
appeared. (It turns out that what was actually published, while  
disturbing with regard to a former employee, was mostly an effort to  
somehow link that employee's departure to the audit in some way. I  
think the story failed on that point.)  Plus, as I've said, we had and  
continue to have legal constraints.

I think everyone recognizes and values the roles the community plays  
in protecting and advancing the projects and the Foundation generally.  
I also think that one thing the community is probably better-situated  
to do than anyone else is figure out where the Register story  
originated.  It seems clear to me that the original theory, including  
the allegations about Carolyn and the attempt to link them to the  
audit, was fed to the Register at some point, since I don't think the  
Register did a lot of original reporting all of a sudden.


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