[Foundation-l] Audit charter and whistleblower policy

effe iets anders effeietsanders at gmail.com
Tue Jun 19 08:34:42 UTC 2007

Does illegal here also mean "not in line with the policy / strategy
set by the Board"?

KR, Lodewijk

2007/6/19, Florence Devouard <Anthere9 op yahoo.com>:
> Anthony wrote:
> > On 6/15/07, Florence Devouard <Anthere9 op yahoo.com> wrote:
> >> * and a whistleblower policy
> >> (http://wikimediafoundation.org/w/index.php?title=Whistleblower_Policy&oldid=21384)
> >>
> >> Not much more to say :-)
> >>
> >> If you have any issue to raise, any criticism, or whatever, please do
> >> not hesitate to comment.
> >>
> > My initial reaction to the whistleblower policy was that it was a very
> > bad policy.  However, I thought maybe I was just overreacting, so I
> > didn't comment on it.  Then I asked Danny, who is a former employee of
> > the corporation, what he thought.  His response, which I'm not going
> > to get into in detail on this list, expressed the exact same concern
> > that I had.  The policy leaves the executive director and board chair
> > in a position of ultimate authority.  And there isn't even an
> > executive director right now.
> >
> > The rest of my comments are my own, and not derived from Danny's.
> >
> > "If any employee reasonably believes that some policy, practice, or
> > activity of Wikimedia Foundation Inc is in violation of law, a written
> > complaint must be filed by that employee with the Executive Director
> > or the Board Chair."  The word "must" there is incredibly disturbing.
> >
> > It also bothers me that employees are the ones expected to sign this
> > policy.  Looking at this policy, it seems to me that it will only
> > serve to stifle the spread of information.  Anything anyone believes
> > to be illegal must be reported to the board chair.  The board chair is
> > not required by the policy to do *anything at all* with that
> > information.
> >
> > I don't understand what the purpose was of the whistleblower policy,
> > but it doesn't seem like it serves any positive purpose.
> Please first read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistleblower to fully
> understand the basics of the whistleblower issue.
> The purpose of a whistleblower policy is largely to protect employees
> when they are reporting illegal activity, in particular illegal activity
> from one of their "superior" (hierarchically speaking, eg, a person who
> can fire them). In the absence of a policy, an employee could report one
> of his boss is acting illegally and as a consequence, be fired, or be
> mishandled (get no raise, have responsabilities removed etc...)
> The whistleblower policy is a statement from the management and board,
> saying that it is okay to report illegal activity and that you can not
> be punished if you do that.
> However, to avoid simple baseless bad-mouthing, the protection is only
> given if the employee comes with arguments, facts, figures, photos, any
> type of evidence or at a minimum information strongly supporting the
> suspicion of abuse. In the absence of significant documentation, an
> accusation from an employee will be perceived as personal attacks, and
> no protection will be offered. This is also a good way to prevent
> constant recrimination against another person. In short, if an employee
> has a base for complain, he is protected. If he is just bad-mouthing
> with no argument, then there is no protection.
> The policy we agreed upon is a fairly common one. It really holds
> nothing special. It was reviewed by a lawyer.
> Ultimately, an employee might refuse to sign it. I am fine with the
> concept. But then, if he reports something illegal, whether based or
> not, then is fired by his immediate boss as a retaliation act, then, I
> believe he can not easily connect the fact he is fired from the fact he
> reported abuse.
> The main reason why this policy was adopted is that this issue was
> raised in the past; by Danny himself, who told me once he did not dare
> report something, because he feared he would be fired. Well, with this
> policy, and if he had signed it, he would be protected. The important
> point is that legally speaking, when there is an illegal activity going
> on around you, you are supposed to report it. If a kid is killed and you
> know the murderer, you are bound by law to report the name (unless it is
> someone family related etc...). However, an employee could argue he did
> not respect the law, because he feared being fired for reporting the
> abuse. With that policy, he can not claim that he would be fired. The
> important part in this is that if the employee is aware of illegal
> activity, and does not report it, then he is "sharing" the
> responsability and becoming himself part of the abuse. Consequently,
> this is a powerful tool to ensure that abuse is reported.
> The second reason why the policy was adopted now is that we expect to
> have a new ED very soon. Which means that the board will be "further"
> from the staff and the staff mostly work with the ED. In case there is
> anything wrong going on with the ED, the staff can report to the chair,
> and they will be protected through the policy.
> At the same time, it protects the ED, as employees can not do
> bad-mouthing without facts. In short, if an employee comes to us and say
> "the ED is securing money for himself", the answer we can give is "do
> you have proof of that accusation ? If you do, then please provide the
> documentation, and you are protected by the policy. If you don't, please
> keep your opinions to yourself; thanks".
> Note that the dual reporting system makes it possible to report to the
> ED of an abuse by the chair. Note, for now, this policy has not been
> signed by any staff member. It must be signed voluntarily.
> Last, the issue of the chair not being required by the policy to act if
> he is reported an illegal issue. It is not necessary to mention in the
> policy that the chair must act in case he is informed of abuse, because
> he is required to act in case of abuse. "All corporate powers shall be
> exercised by or under the authority of, and the business and affairs of
> the Foundation shall be managed under, the direction of the Board of
> Trustees." In case of non-action when abuse is reported, the chair is
> the first in line and usually gets consequences much heavier than simply
> being "fired".
> ant
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