Outgoing ICANN Ombudsman Frank Fowlie has lost an appeal with Canadian air regulators over his bust-up with a steward on a first-class flight in 2009.
In a February 2010 decision, the Canadian Transportation Agency found that Air Canada was within its rights to stop Fowlie boarding a connecting flight after he clashed with flight staff over poor service.
The CTA ruled that Fowlie had “engaged in abusive and offensive behaviour” during the flight.
He first appealed, in March, to have his name removed from the record, but the request was rejected in July.
According to the CTA, Fowlie said at the time that:
a non-publication order is necessary to prevent a serious risk to an important interest which in this case is Dr. Fowlie’s employment as an ombudsman that carries an emphasis on public perception of impartiality and neutrality
And that the publication of his name would have:
a direct and highly detrimental impact on that perception that goes beyond the scope of mere embarrassment and undermines public confidence in the Office of the Ombudsman
Then he appealed the original decision, based on “new evidence”, which turned out to be a witness statement from his “traveling companion”, now apparently also his wife.
In its latest ruling, the CTA didn’t think that was good enough grounds to revisit its original decision.
Fowlie, ICANN’s original Ombudsman, is leaving the organization’s payroll this month, and his position is likely to be reevaluated in light of the ATRT report I noted earlier today.
I offered Fowlie an unnecessarily snarky tip back in February:
if you’re a high-powered executive type, dining out on your reputation for integrity and sound judgement, racking up hundreds of thousands of first class air miles on a bottomless expenses account, and you get into a fight with a trolley dolly because your salmon en croute was a little late, try to avoid having the whole embarrassing incident entered into the public record by doing something silly like, you know, filing a complaint.
I’d like to amend that tip to include the following:
Oh, and if you’re paid a six-figure salary to provide oversight for an organization that ostensibly values openness and transparency above all, perhaps subsequently attempting to have your indiscretions expunged from the public record may not paint you in the best light.
Thanks to George Kirikos, who did most of the legwork for this story.
A Bulgarian domain name association has had its request for information about ICANN’s rejection of the domain .бг itself rejected.
As I blogged last month, Uninet had filed a Documentary Information Disclosure Policy request with ICANN, asking it to publish its reasons for rejecting the Cyrillic ccTLD.
The organization wants to run .бг, which is broadly supported in Bulgaria, despite the fact that ICANN has found it would be confusingly similar to Brazil’s .br.
Uninet believes it needs more information about why the string was rejected, in advance of a planned appeal of its rejection under the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process.
But the group has now heard that its request “falls under multiple Defined Conditions of Nondisclosure set forth in the DIDP” because it covers internal communications and “trade secrets”, among other things.
ICANN’s response suggests instead that Uninet contact the Bulgarian government for the information.
I’m told that Uninet may now file a Reconsideration Request in order to get the data it needs, although I suspect that’s probably optimistic.
There’s a pretty big shake-up coming to ICANN in 2011, following the publication late last week of a report outlining 27 ways it should reform its power structures.
The final recommendations of its Accountability and Transparency Review Team (pdf) notably direct the organization to figure out its “dysfunctional” relationship with governments once and for all.
ICANN will also have to revamp how it decides who sits on its board of directors, when its staff can make unilateral decisions, how the voices of stakeholders are heard, and how its decisions can be appealed.
The ATRT report was developed, independently, as one of ICANN’s obligations under its Affirmation of Commitments with the US government’s Department of Commerce.
As such, ICANN is pretty much bound to adopt its findings. But many are written in such a way to enable some flexibility in their implementation.
The report covers four broad areas of reform, arguably the most important of which is ICANN’s relationship with its Governmental Advisory Committee.
As I’ve previously noted, ICANN and the GAC have a major stumbling block when it comes to effective communication due mainly to the fact that they can’t agree on what GAC “advice” is.
This has led, most recently, to delays with the TLD program, and with ICM Registry’s application for .xxx.
The ATRT report tells ICANN and the GAC to define “advice” before March this year.
It also recommends the opening of more formalized communications channels, so ICANN can tell the GAC when it needs advice, and on what topics, and the GAC can respond accordingly.
The report stops short of telling ICANN to follow GAC advice on a “mandatory” basis, as had been suggested by at least one GAC member (France).
The ICANN will still be able to overrule the GAC, but it will do so in a more formalized way.
ICANN’s public comment forums also look set for a rethink.
The ATRT report recommends, among other things, separating comment periods into at least two flavors and two phases, giving different priorities to different stages of policy development.
It could also could break out comment periods into two segments, to give commentators the chance to, in a second phase, rebut the earlier comments of others.
The three ICANN appeals processes (its Ombudsman, the Reconsideration Request process and the Independent Review Process) are also set for review.
The ATRT group wants ICANN to, before June, hire “a committee of independent experts” to figure out whether these procedures can be make cheaper, quicker and more useful.
The IRP, for example, is pretty much a rich man’s appeals process. The Ombudsman is seen as too cozy with ICANN to be an effective avenue for complaints. And the Reconsideration Request process has too many strict prerequisites to make it a useful tool.
The report includes a recommendation that ICANN should, in the next six months, clarify under what circumstances its is able to make decisions without listening to bottom-up consensus first:
The Board should clarify, as soon as possible but no later than June 2011 the distinction between issues that are properly subject to ICANN’s policy development processes and those matters that are properly within the executive functions performed by the ICANN staff and Board
ICANN has also been told to address how it selects its directors, with emphasis on:
identifying the collective skill-set required by the ICANN Board including such skills as public policy, finance, strategic planning, corporate governance, negotiation, and dispute resolution.
Other the recommendations themselves, the ATRT spends part of its 200-page report moaning about how little time (about nine months) it had to carry out its work, and how little importance some ICANN senior staff seemed to give to the process.
All of the 27 recommendations are expected to be implemented over the next six months. The report is currently open for public comment here.
Tina Dam, senior director of internationalized domain names at ICANN, has quit.
The news appears to have been broken on Twitter by Adrian Kinderis, CEO of AusRegistry, which does quite a bit of work with IDNs in the middle-east.
It’s my understanding that Dam may have actually resigned almost a month ago, during ICANN’s meeting in Cartagena.
Her move comes at an awkward time for ICANN, which is in the middle of revamping its IDN ccTLD Fast Track program, which Dam headed.
Dam has been with ICANN for many years, and is widely well-regarded by the community.
Overseeing the IDN program is a highly specialized and, one imagines, quite stressful position. Finding a qualified replacement will not be trivial.
Her name is added to the list of senior ICANN staffers to either quit or get fired over the last year, which currently numbers at least half a dozen.
Lesley Cowley, chief executive of .uk registry Nominet, has been awarded the OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List, the company has just announced.
She joins singer Annie Lennox, astronaut Piers Sellers, actor Burt Kwuok and hundreds of others in receiving the award this year.
For non-Brits, the OBE, short for Officer of the Order of the British Empire, is a fairly prestigious award dedicated to recognizing public service.
Cowley’s is “for services to the Internet and e.Commerce”.
Some sort of nod was inevitable, given Nominet’s key role in keeping the UK internet running, but I’m slightly surprised it has come so early in her career.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to call her “ma’am” if you see her at the next ICANN meeting, but she will be able to order new business cards with “OBE” after her name.
The full list of New Years Honours recipients can be downloaded from Direct.gov.uk.