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Beckstrom slams his own board over conflicts

Kevin Murphy, March 12, 2012, 17:05:43 (UTC), Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom today offered a scathing criticism of his own board of directors, saying the current batch looks like it is too conflicted to act in the public interest.

During his opening address here at ICANN’s 43rd public meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, Beckstrom appeared to single out the chair and vice-chair for special concern.

“ICANN must be able to act for the public good while placing commercial and financial interests in the appropriate context,” Beckstrom said. “How can it do this if all top leadership is from the very domain name industry it is supposed to coordinate independently?”

He noted that ICANN has spent the last eight months introducing new conflicts of interest and ethics rules but said it was “time to further tighten up the rules” in response to “the growing chorus of criticism about ICANN’s ethics environment”.

“There is value in having community members with domain name industry experience but it is equally valuable to avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest,” he said.

At ICANN’s last board meeting seven directors – including chair Steve Crocker and vice-chair Bruce Tonkin – excused themselves from a new gTLDs discussion due to conflicts.

Crocker’s company, Shinkuro, has registry services provider Afilias as an investor. Tonkin works for the registrar Melbourne IT, which expects to work with over 100 new gTLD applicants.

ICANN has 21 directors, of which 16 have voting powers. At least four voting directors – Crocker, Tonkin, Sebastian Bachollet and Bertrand de La Chapelle – have disclosed new gTLD conflicts.

But Beckstrom spent more time criticizing ICANN’s secretive Nominating Committee, which appoints half of the ICANN board. NomCom’s structure is a “significant threat” to ICANN, he said.

In future, all of NomCom’s board candidates should be “financially independent of the domain name industry,” he said, and NomCom members themselves should be “free of conflicts”.

“Reform of the board selection process is not just desirable. I believe it is imperative,” he said. “Ideally, a fully independent and non-conflicted NomCom should be in place before the next nomination cycle begins.”

The current NomCom-appointed directors are: Crocker, Cherine Chalaby, Bertrand de La Chapelle, Erika Mann, Gonzalo Navarro, R. Ramaraj, George Sadowsky and Judith Duavit Vazquez

Of those eight appointees, two have new gTLD conflicts of interest that have caused them to recently recuse themselves from board discussions on the topic.

Beckstrom’s opening address also covered IPv6 and DNSSEC deployment, new gTLD protections and the applicant support program, but he did not address the IANA contract problem in any detail.

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