[Foundation-l] Future Board election procedures and guidelines

Andrew Gray shimgray at gmail.com
Mon Jul 16 23:27:53 UTC 2007

On 16/07/07, GerardM <gerard.meijssen at gmail.com> wrote:

> Given that Wikipedia grows rapidly, we need people who have a positive view
> on what can be done. This means that people who are blatantly negative about
> the organisation should not stand for election.

First off, calling him "blatantly negative about the organisation" is
really quite prejudicial wording. He strongly felt we were doing
things wrong, that we were muddling around, there's no question. He
felt the board as previously constituted had handled things badly and
in some cases irresponsibly. And, on the whole, he expressed this
pretty strongly at times. But this is objecting to some aspects of the
governance; he wasn't running on a platform of "tear down the
foundation and let's all go home", but on one of "let's make this damn
thing work".

You may disagree with this - that's fair, so do a lot of people. But
to give the impression his candidacy was some kind of malicious attack
on the Foundation is simply unfair and insulting. His views on how WMF
is run and what it should be doing are different from yours - that's
fine, they're different from mine in many ways, too. But they're
honestly held, he has support from a chunk of the community, and he
did run with the desire to make the Foundation work better.

> When like Danny you leave
> the employment in a huff and insists on running with the slogan: "Quis
> custodiet ipsos custodes?" it does not demonstrate a positive towards our
> organisation.

I am confused here. Your problem seems to be with Danny's "negative
attitude", not with the fact that he's a former employee. Unless
you're assuming that ex-employees are much more likely to think the
Foundation is messed up, these two really don't correlate well.

But as to "people who are blatantly negative... should not stand for
election", well, this is a bit weird. I cannot understand the point of
that objection; it's an election. we elect people to decide aspects of
fundamental governance and organisational policy. Of *course* some of
them are going to have strong views; of course some of them are going
to say "we are doing this all wrong, we need to make a big change".

The solution to this isn't to ban anyone who doesn't say "more of the
same, please, but bigger and faster and better!". This'll just lead us
into navel-gazing pointlessness.

I mean, Danny's candidature was by no means the only controversial
one. I'm pretty sure the proposal for "write off anything that isn't
Wikipedia", which was even more "we've been systematically doing the
wrong thing" upset more people, and would have caused much, much more
discord in the community and on the Board had they been elected. But I
don't see a proposal which would have banned them.

> Given the rather public outing of what are in his mind dirty
> linen, the negative attitude is underlined even more.

Yes, there were issues with Danny bringing out "dirty linen", and
there is scope here for a sensible discussion on what is and isn't
appropriate when former employees run. But on the whole, one wonders
if "They did lots of things I wasn't happy with and I felt were
pushing the bounds of legality. No, I won't talk about them." wouldn't
have made everyone involved - both him and the Foundation - look

> The fact that many voted for Danny make no difference to the argument, the
> only thing that is clear is that not enough people voted for him.

"Not enough" here being a few dozen; it's hard to say that this is a
clear and resounding win for Frieda over Oscar, Michael or Danny!

> I also fail to see why there is a conflict of interest. When a board member
> exits gracefully from the board or chapter, it may be exactly in the
> interest of the Foundation, a Chapter to offer a job. It is not as if there
> is a promise that such a job will be available.

This is pretty much a classic conflict of interest as it applies to
elected representatives; you stand down, and walk straight into a job
that was created under you, or with one of the people you used to
regulate. It may be entirely legitimate. In most cases, it probably is
- you're more likely to employ someone you've dealt with before, all
things being equal.

But it's impossible to tell this; no matter how transparent the
involved parties are, there's always an element of murkiness about it
all. It's not uncommon to have (or at least have *recommended*)
cooling-off periods for this sort of thing, simply to remain above
reproach and avoid that ambiguity.

- Andrew Gray
  andrew.gray at dunelm.org.uk

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