[Foundation-l] [Wikimedia Announcements] Announcement: Mike Godwin leaves the Wikimedia Foundation

Gerard Meijssen gerard.meijssen at gmail.com
Tue Oct 19 18:19:09 UTC 2010

It is always sad to learn that someone who is appreciated as much as Mike
is, is leaving. I hope he will be happy in his future activities.

I want to thank Mike for the work that he has done. My contacts with Mike
have always been positive so I feel it as a loss.

On 19 October 2010 19:45, Sue Gardner <sgardner at wikimedia.org> wrote:

> Hi folks,
> I want to let you know that as of this Friday, October 22, 2010, Mike
> Godwin will be leaving his role as General Counsel for the Wikimedia
> Foundation. Mike’s transition out of the role will be a fairly lengthy
> one: he will continue to be available to the Wikimedia Foundation to
> provide information and advice for several months to come.
> The search for his successor will begin immediately. It's being
> conducted by the recruiting firm m|Oppenheim.
> There's a detailed Q and A below that I hope will answer any questions
> you've got.
> Thanks,
> Sue
> Why is Mike leaving the Wikimedia Foundation?
> Mike leaving the Wikimedia Foundation is a confidential personnel
> issue, and the Wikimedia Foundation doesn’t talk about confidential
> personnel issues with anyone except the people directly involved. We
> want to handle this kind of thing with respect for people’s privacy
> and dignity, and we are hopeful we can do that in this instance. That
> means, we’re not going to answer this question, and we hope you will
> understand why.
> Is Mike leaving the Wikimedia Foundation because of a change in
> direction or policy, related to our legal context?
> No.
> Is Mike leaving the Wikimedia Foundation over a point of principle?
> For example, because the Wikimedia Foundation wants to do something
> that he disagrees with, or because it doesn’t want to do something
> that he thinks it should do?
> No. We’re not aware of any significant differences of opinion between
> Mike and the Wikimedia Foundation, in terms of values, principles,
> ethics, future plans, or anything like that.
> Is Mike leaving the Wikimedia Foundation because he did something
> egregious?
> Not at all. The Wikimedia Foundation believes Mike has always acted in
> what he believes to be the Wikimedia Foundation’s best interests.
> What is Mike going to do next?
> We don’t know what he’ll end up doing next, but we wish him all the
> best, and we hope that he will continue to do the same kind of work
> he’s always done -- helping to advance people’s online freedoms. We
> think he’s really good at that work, and we hope it’s what he
> continues to do.
> I like Mike, and I know that it’s a tough economy. Can I ask what the
> Wikimedia Foundation is doing to ensure that Mike is okay while he
> figures out his next steps?
> Yes. The Wikimedia Foundation and Mike have figured out severance that
> we all hope will protect Mike and give him time to think about what he
> wants to do next. The terms of the severance are confidential: we
> won’t talk about them now, or in the future. But you can rest assured
> that the Wikimedia Foundation wants to see Mike continue working to
> advance people’s online freedoms: everybody would like to see him
> continue making an important contribution.
> How will a new General Counsel be recruited?
> The Wikimedia Foundation has hired m|Oppenheim to help us recruit a
> new General Counsel. m|Oppenheim has done great work for us in the
> past: they helped us recruit Zack Exley, Barry Newstead and Cyn
> Skyberg, and they are currently helping us find a Director of
> Technical Operations. We’ve been happy with them, and we’re confident
> they’ll be able to help us successfully recruit a new General Counsel.
> Who will be involved in the hiring process and how will it work?
> Currently, m|Oppenheim is developing a job description for the role.
> To that end, they’ve spoken with a number of board members, the
> Executive Director, and some of the senior staff. At the same time,
> m|Oppenheim is also developing a list of people to contact who might
> be interested in the role, or who might know people who would be.
> (This list includes people at all kinds of ideologically-like-minded
> organizations, such as the EFF, Berkman, our Advisory Board, and so
> forth, as well as people at large internet companies such as Google,
> eBay, etc.) That “connector” list is being developed in consultation
> with several board members, the ED and senior staff.  By October 22nd,
> m|Oppenheim expects to have the job description posted publicly, and
> will begin generating a list of potential candidates.
> Once a candidate pool is developed, interviews will be held. The
> interviewing process will likely include at a minimum Sue Gardner,
> Erik Moeller, Cyn Skyberg, Kat Walsh, Arne Klempert, and Barry
> Newstead. There will probably also be others involved (e.g., possibly
> additional board members, and possibly additional members of the
> senior staff), but that’s the skeleton plan we have right now. We will
> also aim to get a sampling of the legal needs of various stakeholder
> parties such as chapters, probably by asking m|Oppenheim to interview
> two or three chapters representatives and other relevant stakeholders.
> If I am interested in the role, or know someone who might be, what should I
> do?
> We welcome applications, and we also welcome ideas about where we
> might find good candidates. Feel free to get in touch with Lisa
> Grossman at m|Oppenheim, at lisag at moppenheim.com. She’d be glad to
> hear from you.
> Will the new General Counsel job description be significantly
> different from Mike’s?
> No. m|Oppenheim is having conversations with stakeholders about the
> General Counsel role, and will update the job description based on
> those conversations. But we don’t expect the resultant job description
> to be substantially different from the existing one.
> What is the gist of the General Counsel job?
> Our General Counsel role is slightly unusual, in that it has a bit of
> a double focus. First, the Wikimedia Foundation (and the Wikimedia
> movement) are ideologically-motivated -- or if you prefer,
> values-driven/agenda-driven. That means we need a lawyer who shares
> Wikimedia’s ideological agenda: who, for example, supports people’s
> right to access information online unimpeded by censorship, and who
> supports a legal context that enables people to work collaboratively
> online to develop educational and informational materials for other
> people to read. And second, the Wikimedia Foundation is a 501(c)3
> non-profit organization based in the United States that operates
> international web properties, and interacts with non-American chapter
> organizations. To that end, we need a lawyer who can be responsible
> for all the legal terrain implied by that: somebody who understands
> the legal issues relevant to the operation of a big website, to the
> operation of a US-based non-profit organization, to the legal transfer
> of funds among various international entities, and so forth. Clearly
> no single person can be an expert in all of that. Which tells us that
> we need a General Counsel who is 1) ideologically-aligned with our
> work, and 2) capable of effectively outsourcing specialized legal work
> to others, and ensuring it gets done well, consistent with our vision,
> values and goals.
> How long will it take before there is a new General Counsel in place?
> We’re expecting a new General Counsel would likely start work sometime
> in January. It’s possible the search would take longer, and we won’t
> hire anyone until we have a candidate we’re happy with. But past
> searches suggest to us that we can likely expect the search to wrap up
> in January, or shortly afterward.
> Who will look after the Wikimedia Foundation’s legal interests in the
> interim?
> We’re currently talking with outside counsel that we’ve worked with in
> the past to establish an interim presence to help us during the
> General Counsel search time frame. We should have that in place by the
> end of this week.
> If I get a legal complaint or have a question that in the past I would
> have forwarded to Mike, where should I now be sending it?
> All legal information should be submitted in the same way that you are
> doing so now: any changes to the process will be handled further
> downstream.
> Is it dangerous, for the Wikimedia Foundation to be legally exposed
> during this period?
> Obviously it would be ideal for us to have a General Counsel in place
> consistently, with no interruption, and we wish that Mike had been
> able to agree to stay on with us during the recruitment process.
> Having said that, we’ve taken steps to protect Wikimedia, and we
> believe we will be well-protected in the interim period. We believe
> that because 1) the Wikimedia movement in general has developed some
> pretty solid legal understanding over the years, which includes robust
> processes for handling legal threats and problems of various kinds.
> There is a good infrastructure for handling certain types of legal
> risks, that’s not entirely dependent on a General Counsel for
> day-to-day operations. 2) Over the past several years, we’ve developed
> good relationships with a number of lawyers with specific
> subject-matter expertise that we need. Those relationships will be
> helpful for us in the interim period until a new GC arrives. 3) For
> the transition period, we are lining up a good generalist lawyer, who
> we’ve worked with in the past, and who has agreed to be the Wikimedia
> Foundation’s single-point-of-contact for support until there’s a new
> General Counsel in place. And 4) Mike has agreed to be available to
> the Wikimedia Foundation for advice and support, for many months to
> come. So all in all, we think the risk has been acceptably mitigated.
> How was this Q and A document developed?
> This document was written mostly by Sue Gardner, with some help from
> Cyn Skyberg. It was reviewed in detail by Mike, and he's agreed to
> have it published.
> Why was this Q and A document developed?
> We know that whenever someone leaves the Wikimedia Foundation, there
> are always lots of questions. And we know that people have sometimes
> been dissatisfied with how short and uninformative our answers are. We
> sympathize with people who want to know what’s going on. This Q and A
> is an attempt to balance Mike’s right to privacy, against people’s
> desire to understand what’s going on, particularly because Mike is in
> a high-profile role, and is well-known inside the Wikimedia community.
> We wouldn’t have published it without Mike’s permission.
> In general, when people leave the Wikimedia Foundation, they make the
> decision about how much to say, when and to whom. So you should
> assume, whenever anyone leaves, that what’s being said is what they’re
> comfortable with: no more, no less.
> If I have additional questions that aren’t answered here, where should
> I take them?
> If you have questions about the General Counsel role, please feel free
> to ask them in any regular forum (e.g., foundation-l, internal-l) and
> Sue or someone else will get them answered.
> --
> Sue Gardner
> Executive Director
> Wikimedia Foundation
> 415 839 6885 office
> 415 816 9967 cell
> Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in
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