ICANN Ombudsman Chris LaHatte is investigating a complaint related to the new generic top-level domains program.
Speaking to DI today, LaHatte declined to disclose the nature of the complaint or the identity of the complainant, but said he hoped to have the case resolved in a few weeks.
He may publish an official report about the investigation, he said. This would be the first such report to emerge from the Ombudsman’s office since October 2009.
The often-overlooked Ombudsman is not mentioned at all in the Applicant Guidebook, but it is an avenue open to applicants who believe they’ve been treated unfairly.
LaHatte said it’s “unlikely but conceivable” that he will receive complaints about unfair behavior when applications start being processed – and rejected – later this year.
The Ombudsman’s job is to look into allegations of unfairness in ICANN staff actions or the decisions of its board of directors.
But LaHatte said he believes he would be able to also handle complaints about the program’s outside evaluators, if applicants believe they have been treated unfairly.
“There will be some people who prefer to litigate and some who would prefer to come to me,” he said. “The message I would like to send to the community is that my door is always open.”
But he warned that the Ombudsman is not a “court of appeal” for applicants who simply disagree with adverse decisions.
The Ombudsman job has in the past been criticized for being relatively toothless – the role answers to the ICANN board and has no direct power other than the ability to make recommendations.
LaHatte characterized his ability to effect change as a “moral persuasion”.
He said he’s received 23 complaints so far in January, already double what his predecessor received per month, but many of these will be out his jurisdiction — cases of ICANN being blamed for domain theft or a registrar problem, for example.