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“Please send women!” ICANN board urges

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2019, Domain Policy

The ICANN board of directors wants more women around the table, according to recent correspondence to the independent Nominating Committee.

The recommendation to balance the genders further was among several made in a letter (pdf) to NomCom from ICANN chair Cherine Chalaby last week. He wrote:

There has been increasing sensitivity within the Board regarding gender balance, probably reflecting comparable sensitivity throughout the community. Without compromising the fundamental requirement to have Board members with the necessary integrity, skills, experience, the Board would find it helpful to have more women on the Board.

It is not specified why a greater number of women would be considered “helpful”.

Of the current 20 directors, six are women. That’s 30%, only slightly less than the proportion of women that usually attend ICANN’s public meetings.

However, two of the six are non-voting committee liaisons. The female portion of the 16 voting members is therefore a rather lower 12.5%.

Of the eight directors selected by NomCom, three are currently female.

The 2018 NomCom had 33 female and 76 male applicants, though these were for more positions than just the board of directors.

Chalaby’s letter, which “strongly encourages” NomCom to follow the board’s guidance for director selection, also shows a clear preference for incumbents.

The board is concerned that it takes new directors “a year or two to come up to speed” and that too-fast board churn could lead to a loss of “institutional knowledge”.

Combined, these two recommendations may be good news for the two first-term female NomCom appointees: Sarah Deutsch and Avri Doria, whose terms expire in November 2020.

Three male NomCom-appointed directors have terms due to expire at this year’s Annual General Meeting: Khaled Koubaa, Maarten Botterman, and Chalaby himself. Koubaa and Botterman are currently on their first three-year terms, while Chalaby is term-limited after nine years of service.

Chalaby’s letter also urges the NomCom to consider personal qualities such as intelligence, technical knowledge, management experience, domain industry independence and communication skills during their deliberations.

“While it will be a rare candidate who ticks all of the boxes on the list of additional characteristics and skill sets, the Board as a whole should do so,” Chalaby wrote.

Van der Laan to leave ICANN board

Kevin Murphy, September 17, 2018, Domain Policy

Former Dutch politician Lousewies van der Laan is to leave the ICANN board of directors next month and be replaced with the former CEO of the Serbian ccTLD.

ICANN said yesterday that Danko Jevtovic, who headed RNIDS from 2013 until July last year, has been selected to occupy van der Laan’s seat following the Annual General Meeting in Barcelona.

Van der Laan, who had been selected by the Nominating Committee for a second term, has had to decline the offer “due to unforeseen family obligations”, ICANN said.

Jevtovic will take his seat at the same time as fellow NomCom appointee, Tripti Sinha of the University of Maryland, who oversees management of the DNS D-root server and replaces term-limited George Sadowsky.

El Salvadorean ccTLD founder Rafael “Lito” Ibarra is the third NomCom appointee this year, starting his second term next month.

Aussie gov refuses to spill the beans on ICANN vice chair’s firing

Kevin Murphy, November 21, 2017, Domain Policy

The Australian government has refused to release documents concerning alleged “financial irregularities” at local ccTLD manager auDA that have been linked to the firing of former CEO Chris Disspain.

A request under the Freedom of Information Act sought documents detailing Disspain’s March 2016 termination, as well as high levels of travel expenses and apparent under-reporting of “fringe benefit tax” under his watch.

The request was filed in September by by industry consultant Ron Andruff, who is known to have beef with Disspain after having been passed over for an important ICANN leadership role.

One of the specific documents sought by Andruff was an unpublished audit by PPB Advisory known to have uncovered slack historical expenses management practices and high levels of travel expenditure.

While rumors have circulated, there have been no substantiated allegations of wrongdoing by Disspain.

The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts told Andruff this weekend that 13 relevant documents had been identified and reviewed, but that all were exempt from disclosure under the FOI Act.

Reasons given include the right to privacy of the individual concerned and the fact that the information could fuel “unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct”.

The Department also thought that disclosing the documents could make it harder to it to obtain information from auDA in future, particularly relevant given that it recently kicked off a review of the organization.

While acknowledging there were some public interest reasons to publish the documents, on balance it said that the public interest reasons not to publish were more numerous.

auDA has been plagued by problems such as high turnover of staff and board, unpopular policies, and the member-instigated ouster of its chair, since Disspain left.

Separately, Disspain became ICANN’s vice chair earlier this month, having sat on the board for the last seven years as a representative of the ccTLD community.

He’s one of four community-nominated ICANN directors who have agreed to undergo the same background checks as their Nominating Committee-appointed counterparts, in part due to pressure applied by Andruff.

The FOI response can be viewed here (pdf).

ICANN beefs up background checks on directors amid concerns about vice-chair

Kevin Murphy, November 6, 2017, Domain Policy

ICANN is to beef up background screening procedures for its own board of directors after concerns were raised about financial integrity.

Directors in four seats that were not previously subject to screening have voluntarily agreed to checks “immediately” and ICANN has urged two of its supporting organizations to bring in such checks as standard.

Chris Disspain and Mike Silber, selected by the Country Code Names Supporting Organization, and Generic Names Supporting Organization selectees Becky Burr and Matthew Shears are these volunteers.

Neither the GNSO nor ccNSO currently screen their director picks to the same standard as other supporting organizations and the Nominating Committee.

ICANN said that they will be checked for “negative indicators such as discrepancies on a resume (including licenses, educational history and employment history), or publicly reported issues of financial mismanagement, fraud, harassment and mishandling of confidential information”.

The board passed a resolution last Thursday calling for the two SOs to bring in “the same or similar” screening procedures for future directors.

The resolution was passed minutes before the formal handover of power from outgoing chair Steve Crocker to new chair Cherine Chalaby. Disspain is the new vice-chair, replacing Chalaby.

ICANN had been put under pressure to widen its director due diligence earlier in the week by consultant and long-time ICANN community member Ron Andruff, who is known to have concerns about Disspain’s financial integrity.

Andruff spoke at an open-mic session with the board last Monday to recommend that the four anomalous directors face screening before the board was re-seated just a few days later.

“We’re talking about risk,” he said. “We’re talking about making sure that we do not put our institution that we’ve worked so hard to put into ICANN 2.0 in a place where we have four people that might have something, or not. And quite frankly, I don’t expect we’re going to find anything. I just want to make sure that we’ve checked that box,” Andruff said.

“We have the resources to do four background screenings between now and Thursday. No one expects any issues to surface. But this simple act will ensure that the institution is properly protected,” Andruff said.

Then-chair Crocker responded that it would not be possible to do the checks so quickly, but agreed in principle with the need for screening and said the board had had “substantial discussions” on the matter.

Andruff is former chair-elect of the Nominating Committee, which chooses eight directors and subjects all of its appointees to background screening.

He recently made a Freedom of Information Act request in Australia related to the circumstances leading to Disspain getting fired as CEO of local ccTLD administrator auDA in March 2016.

Disspain was let go after his relationship with the auDA board became “increasingly strained over issues of process, transparency and accountability”, according to an external review published by auDA in October last year.

auDA’s practices had “not kept pace with auDA’s growth in scale and importance to the Australian community, nor with evolving good practice in governance and accountability”, this review found.

The review did not directly allege any wrongdoing by Disspain.

A separate and currently unpublished review around the same time by PPB Advisory found that auDA had been “under-reporting” so-called “fringe benefit tax” to the Aussie tax authorities, according to auDA board meeting minutes.

FBT is tax companies must pay on employee benefits such as a company car or payment of private expenses.

There’s no clear indication in the public record that this under-reporting was directly related to benefits Disspain received, though the under-reporting very likely happened at least partially during his 15 years as CEO.

A slide deck discussing the PPB review published by auDA identified “a lack of formal policies and procedures governing how travel and expenses were managed”.

It added: “There were high levels of expenditure on international travel and reimbursement arrangements with international bodies that lacked transparency, which should have warranted a more robust process”.

All expenses incurred by ICANN’s directors and reimbursed in relation to their duties are a matter of public record.

Disspain receives not only a $45,000 annual salary but also tens of thousands of dollars in reimbursements each year, much of which is related to directors’ extensive travel obligations, these records show.

In its last reported tax year, to June 30, 2016, he received $68,437 in reimbursements, according to a published document (pdf). ICANN directly paid another $32,951 on his behalf.

A number of allegations have been made to DI (and, I believe, to other bloggers) over the last few months about alleged wrongdoing by Disspain in connection to these nuggets of information, but they’ve come from sources who refuse to identify themselves or provide corroborating evidence.

Despite efforts, I’ve been unable to independently verify these anonymous claims, which come amid turbulent times for auDA and its members, so I’ve chosen not to repeat them.

Andruff, meanwhile, has used FOI law to ask the Australian government, which has oversight of auDA, for the full PPB report, as well as documents related to the FBT issue, Disspain’s termination and his travel expenses.

Andruff and Disspain are known to have a history of friction.

Two years ago, Andruff expressed his anger after having been passed over for the job of chair of the NomCom, a role that be believes should have gone to him as chair-elect.

He lost the opportunity after the ICANN board, exercising its bylaws-permitted discretion, accepted the recommendation of its Board Governance Committee — at the time chaired by Disspain — that it be given to Stephane Van Gelder instead.

The original deadline for the Australian government response to Andruff’s FOI request was October 16, but this has been extended twice, now to November 19, due to the complexity of the request.

The eventual response will no doubt be read with interest.

In harsh tones, ccNSO rejects NomCom appointee

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2017, Domain Registries

ICANN’s Country Code Names Supporting Organization has rejected the appointment to its Council of a Canadian registry director.

Saying NomCom ignored long-standing guidance to avoid appointing registry employees, the ccNSO Council has said the recent naming of Marita Moll to the role is “unacceptable”.

Moll will have to choose between sitting on the Council and being a director of .ca registry CIRA, the Council said in a letter to NomCom and the ICANN board.

Three of the Council’s 18 voting members are selected by NomCom. The rest are elected from ccTLD registries, three from each of ICANN’s five geographic regions.

To maintain balance, and promote independent views, the Council told NomCom most recently back in 2012 that it should refrain from appointing people connected to ccTLD registries.

The new Council letter (pdf) reads:

Council’s view (none dissenting) is that your Committee’s proposed selection directly contravenes this requirement, notwithstanding the clear and explicit assurance we received in 2012 from the then Chair of Nominating Committee that the Committee would be “avoiding any member already belonging to the ccTLD management participating in the ccNSO”.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that CIRA already has representation on the Council in the form of CEO Byron Holland.

The letter concludes that the conflict is “irreconcilable” and the appointment “unacceptable”.

As the ccNSO does not appear to have refusal powers on NomCom appointees, it will presumably be up to Moll to decline the appointment.

Andruff fuming after ICANN leadership snub

Kevin Murphy, October 14, 2015, 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.

ICANN board getting three new directors

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN 51 next month in Los Angeles is also the organization’s formal annual general meeting, and that means changes at the top.

The board of directors is replacing three members in October, and renewing the terms of two others.

Long-time ICANN participant and internet governance expert Markus Kummer has been selected for a seat by the Non-Contracted Parties House of the Generic Names Supporting Organization.

Kummer is currently vice president of public policy at the Internet Society. Prior to that, he was at the United Nations with the primary responsibility for organizing the Internet Governance Forum.

He replaces independent consultant Bill Graham, who’s leaving the board after one three-year term. Graham, until going solo in 2011, also held a senior position at ISOC.

Rinalia Abdul Rahim is to join the board as the new representative of the At Large, having beaten incumbent Sebastien Bachollet in elections early this year.

Based in Malaysia, Rahim is managing director at Compass Rose, her self-founded management consultancy. Between 2011 and 2013, she was a NomCom appointee to the At-Large Advisory Committee.

The last addition is Asha Hemrajani, a Nokia alum and currently a partner at the small Singapore-based business consultancy Knight Griffin. She was selected by the Nominating Committee.

Hemrajani replaces Wolfgang Kleinwachter, who will leave the seat after less than a year. Kleinwachter stepped in to replace Judith Vazquez, who mysteriously quit two years into her three-year term.

NomCom has, unsurprisingly, selected ICANN chair Steve Crocker for a board seat again. Under the ICANN bylaws, it will be Crocker’s third and final three-year term.

Chris Disspain of auDA will also begin his second term, having stood unopposed for one of the two ccNSO seats.

The changes take effect at the end of the LA meeting, which runs from October 12 to 16.

Satellite policy expert named ICANN director

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has named Olga Madruga-Forti, an Argentinian telecoms policy expert, as the newest member of its board of directors.

Selected by this year’s Nominating Committee, Madruga-Forti will take over from R. Ramaraj when his second term ends at the Toronto meeting this October.

According to the biography provided by ICANN, she has extensive experience of telecommunications policy, particularly related to satellite, in both public and private sectors.

She currently works for ARSAT in Buenes Aires as international counsel. She’s previously worked for Iridium, Loral and the US Federal Communications Commission.

ICANN pointed out that she represents telcos at the International Telecommunications Union, a relevant data point, perhaps, given the WCIT conference coming up in December.

Madruga-Forti ticks one of the Latin-American boxes on the ICANN board.

NomCom has also reappointed two other directors for second terms on the board: Gonzalo Navarro (Latin-America) and the reliably contrarian George Sadowsky (North America).

New leadership members of three ICANN supporting organizations have also been selected by NomCom.

Jennifer Wolfe of the intellectual property law firm WolfeSBMC, which counts new gTLD applicants Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods among its clients, has been appointed to GNSO Council.

I believe she’s destined to replace Carlos Dionisio Aguirre when his term is up later this year.

Canadian Alan Greenberg and Frenchman Jean-Jacques Subrenat have been reappointed to the At-Large Advisory Committee.

Mary Wong, who currently sits on the GNSO Council representing non-commercial stakeholders, has been appointed to the ccNSO Council.

The full biographies of all 2012 NomCom appointees can be found here.

Beckstrom slams his own board over conflicts

Kevin Murphy, March 12, 2012, 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.

New ICANN director appointed

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2011, Domain Policy

Filipino businesswomen Judith Duavit Vazquez has been selected to join ICANN’s board of directors.

She will take the seat being vacated by Gambian development consultant Katim Touray at the end of the ICANN meeting in Dakar October 28.

Vazquez has a pretty impressive resume covering senior roles at major telecommunications, internet and media organizations in the Philippines.

Her corporate board experience includes 20 years at GMA Network, a major player in Filipino TV and radio, and time at a few non-profits.

Board work has included seats on compensation, audit and risk management committees – useful skills given ICANN’s ongoing accountability and transparency reform work.

In terms of involvement with internet addresses, Vasquez has worked with APNIC, the Asia-Pacific regional internet registry, according to her bio.

She’s also a woman, which will have counted in her favor.

ICANN’s Nominating Committee, which selects eight of ICANN’s directors, had made no secret of the fact that it wants the board to resemble less of a sausage-fest.

German politician Erika Mann is currently the only female voting director, following the departure of lawyer Rita Rodin Johnston in Singapore.

I speculated in June that NomCom’s selection “will almost certainly be a woman from a region currently under-represented on the board. My guess is Russia.”

I was obviously wrong about Russia, and while the Asia-Pac region has hardly been under-represented in the past, Vasquez is the first ICANN director to hail from South-East Asia.

NomCom also extended recently installed chairman Steve Crocker’s term on the board, which was due to expire in October, for another three years, as was expected.

For the full list of NomCom committee appointees, see the ICANN announcement.

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