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Andruff fuming after ICANN leadership snub

Kevin Murphy, October 14, 2015, 17:30:06 (UTC), Domain Policy

Long-time ICANN volunteer Ron Andruff has complained to the ICANN board of directors after he was passed over for a key leadership position.

Andruff this week filed a Request for Reconsideration after the board appointed Stephane van Gelder chair of the ICANN Nominating Committee for a second year, despite Andruff serving as “chair-elect” in the 2015 NomCom.

According to ICANN bylaws, it is “anticipated” that NomCom chairs-elect take over from their chairs each year, but the board has the “discretion” to pick somebody entirely different.

That’s discretion the board exercised last week when it picked Van Gelder, executive VP at new gTLD registry Starting Dot, to continue on as chair.

Andruff was replaced as chair-elect by Hans Petter Holen, who comes from the IP address side of the community.

NomCom is tasked with the selection of three ICANN board members each year. The chair and chair-elect positions are picked by the ICANN board, but are non-voting.

Now Andruff’s mad that “a subset of mean-spirited and targeted attacks on my reputation by a few individuals” have cost him the chair’s gig. He said the board:

is meddling in the affairs of the supposedly independent Nominating Committee. Interfering with successful and efficient processes within the body that selects 2-3 Board members each year is not only wholly unnecessary, it triggers suspicion about the very independence of the Nom Com. It is also likely to deter others from volunteering their time and energy within the NomCom and other ICANN bodies as they become aware of how review processes that are supposed to foster self-improvement can instead be used to unfairly tarnish reputations.

The ICANN board seems to have come to its decision based at least in part on the results of a “360-degree” evaluation of Andruff by his NomCom peers.

These reviews invite committee members to score each other based on criteria such as leadership skills, honesty and good judgment.

The anonymous comments attached to the scores can be both fawning and really rather scathing.

A perfect score would be 55. Andruff scored 42.3.

Van Gelder scored 50.1 this year and 49.7 when he was in Andruff’s position last year.

Andruff’s report card also seems to contain more negative, and more negative, written comments than Van Gelder’s.

A minority of respondents questioned his neutrality, leadership skills and tone. A sample:

Ron constantly provided negative, arbitrary comments which carried underlying messages that he is the hardest worker in the group – more so than anyone else. He appeared to be a bully toward other members on many occasions – very opinionated and controlling, particularly about process. Ron does not use his influence appropriately regarding candidates. There is concern about his ability next year to separate his constituencies’ interests from the supposed independent role of the NomCom Chair. His style of using influence is often neither appropriate nor effective.

Andruff takes issue with the fact that the board chose to use his 360 review at all. In his RfR, he writes:

the reviews were intended to be a tool for improvement, rather than a basis for disqualification. That is especially true in regard to a review such as my own, which was strong overall while revealing a few areas that could be a focus for further improvement.

He also says he was told by an ICANN director that he “lacks cultural sensitivity”, a claim that he says came without any evidence.

He wrote:

I have absolutely no doubt, based on my personal interactions as well as the result of the 360 review, that if my ascension to Chair was put to a vote of the Nom Com members with whom I have served over the past year I would win by a substantial margin.

Andruff is CEO of his own firm, ONR Consulting, which also goes by the name ICANN Sherpa, and he’s worried that the board’s snub will cost him business.

The ICANN Board Governance Committee, which made the original recommendation to reappoint Van Gelder and remove Andruff, intends to discuss Andruff’s complaint on Sunday.

Documentation on NomCom 2015, including the 360 reviews, can be found here.

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Comments (5)

  1. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Every elected voluntary leadership position can backfire on that person’s business or employment. That’s how life is.

    But besides saving face, I guess the requestor knows the request will be denied, since it’s the same set of board members (BGC) that already made the decision in the first place that will evaluate this RfR… and I don’t see an IRP coming for this.

  2. Having served on the 2015 Nominating Committee with Mr. Andruff as chair-elect, and on the 2014 Nominating Committee in which Mr. Andruff was one of the BC representatives, and not having always agreed with Mr. Andruff, I have to say that many of the 360 review comments do not remotely resemble the person I observed and with whom I interacted on the NomComm.

    Effective NomComm participation requires a lot of dedicated work. Many very qualified people apply for the positions to be filled. In order to be fair to the applicants, and to ICANN, it is not a committee in which a member can just drift along, fill a seat, and play with one’s ICANN friends at the meeting. I’ve come to the conclusion that if there is someone at ICANN you don’t like, put them on the Nomcomm, because if they are doing it right, you won’t see much of them for a year.

    Mr. Andruff reminded and encouraged members to be prepared to participate, in order to get the informed views of all of the committee members. I found his encouragement inspirational and tactful, and I cannot help but believe that some of the remarks in the 360 review arise from something other than a fair evaluation of his contribution to the leadership of the group.

    At the very least, the Board committee should have made something of a more probing inquiry into what is, indeed, wholly unsupported commentary which some had made in the 360 reviews.

    That said, Mr. Petter Hollen is likewise well-qualified for the position.

  3. This 360⁰ evaluation, from the small pieces quoted, does not remotely the Ron Andruff I have known for many years through the ICANN process.

    At at time when accountability is under the spotlight, the ability of the Board for the time-being to meddle with the “Nominating” Committee is worrying, to say the least.

  4. Chris Chaplow says:

    Having worked with Ron Andruff on a number of different ICANN groups since 2009, I would say he was an ideal community member to be the Chair of the NomCom. He fully understands the role of chair and the role of the NomCom.

    There is little detail in the rationale section in the Board Minutes of 28-09-2015.

    Whatever the original intention of the 360 reviews, in the annual ‘Call for Expressions of Interest for Nominating Committee Chair and Chair’ of July 2013, May 2014, and July 2015 have referred to the 360 reviews.

    “while it is anticipated that the 2014 NomCom Chair Elect will succeed to the role of 2015 NomCom Chair, in support of continuous improvement in its accountability and transparency the NomCom will evaluate the performance of the current NomCom leadership, and the results of that evaluation will be available to the Board Governance Committee before it makes a recommendation to the full Board on 2015 NomCom leadership.”

    It is difficult to believe that the negative comments by a minority on a generally satisfactory 360 review of Ron Andruff as published on the NomCom website, would be grounds for this unusual move.

    There were no reviews published in 2013 so we only have two sets to cross reference.

    I hope the board will question the Board Governance Committee very carefully, this time round in coming to a decision on the review request.

    If the performance threshold for the chair elect is so high, or if it has become a 360 review points competition between the chair and the chair elect, the board might also consider removing the Chair elect position altogether.

  5. Juhani Juselius says:

    I served two full Nominating Committee cycles with Ron Andruff and I really disagree with all negative comments written about him in the article.

    in my opinion Ron did excellent work both as committee member and as co-chair (chair-elect). He was professional, diplomatic, culture sensitive and had common sense. During the two years, attending almost every Nominating Committee meeting, there was no single moment when I’d have had any doubts regarding his successful 2016 chairmanship.

    For this reason I hope the decision will be reconsidered – not against anybody but in favor of the fairness and transparency.

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