[Foundation-l] Audit charter and whistleblower policy

Florence Devouard Anthere9 at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 19 08:38:15 UTC 2007

No, illegal is illegal in the legal sense.
This policy is only about reporting a violation of the (US) law.


effe iets anders wrote:
> Does illegal here also mean "not in line with the policy / strategy
> set by the Board"?
> KR, Lodewijk
> 2007/6/19, Florence Devouard <Anthere9 at yahoo.com>:
>> Anthony wrote:
>>> On 6/15/07, Florence Devouard <Anthere9 at 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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