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ICANN rushes mystery directors onto board in apparent bylaws breach

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN is hurrying two new directors onto its board despite that fact that hardly anybody, apparently including the people who this week gave them the nod, seemed to know who they are.

The Org also seems to have technically breached its bylaws with the timing of the move, which also sees chair Maarten Botterman appointed for another three-year term.

Earlier this week the Empowered Community Administration, which has broad powers to hire and fire directors, submitted ICANN-drafted letters formally approving this year’s Nominating Committee picks — Botterman, Christopher Chapman and Sajidur Rahman.

But I’m told that the ECA, like the rest of us, were not given any information by ICANN about the two newcomers beyond their names and the geographic regions they hail from. They were basically waved onto the board blind, it seems.

Photographs subsequently published on the NomCom web site confirm the two directors’ identities. They’re the former head of the Australian Communications and Media Authority Chris Chapman, and Indonesian venture capitalist Sajid Rahman of MyAsiaVC.

Judging by the ICANN bylaws, approval by the ECA — which comprises one person from each of the ASO, the ccNSO, the GNSO, the ALAC and the GAC — is pretty much just a rubber-stamp. All the due diligence is done by NomCom and the Org.

But the appointments appear to amount to a technical bylaws breach on timing grounds, coming about a month late. The bylaws state:

At least two months before the commencement of each annual meeting, the Nominating Committee shall give the EC Administration (with a copy to the Decisional Participants and Secretary) written notice of its nomination of Directors for seats with terms beginning at the conclusion of the annual meeting, and the EC Administration shall promptly provide the Secretary (with a copy to the Decisional Participants) with written notice of the designation of those Directors.

This year’s AGM will be held in Kuala Lumpur from September 17, with the new directors taking their seats at its conclusion on September 22. So NomCom seems to have missed its “at least two months before” deadline by a month. ECA approval came August 15.

This year’s AGM is a little earlier than usual, which may help explain the problem. They’re usually held in October or November, and there hasn’t been one held in September since 2001.

NomCom also missed the two-month window in 2020, by an even bigger margin, for entirely understandable pandemic-related reasons. It announced its selections just a couple of weeks before the AGM.

Diversity takes a hit as NomCom replaces two ICANN directors with newcomers

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN will be left with fewer women and Africans on its board of directors following this year’s Nominating Committee selections, after which apparent community newcomers will take seats.

NomCom last night announced that its three picks for the board, due to take or retake their seats at the Annual General Meeting in Kuala Lumpur next month, are Maarten Botterman, Christopher Chapman and Sajidur Rahman.

Botterman is of course the current chair, and his reappointment was surely never in any doubt. He’ll be entering his third and final term at the AGM.

Less is known about the two newcomers. ICANN has so far provided no biographical information about them beyond the geographic region they represent. Botterman is European and both Chapman and Rahman are from Asia-Pacific.

Both new appointees have very common, google-resistant names, and neither appears to have a track record of vocal ICANN community participation.

Chapman, if I had to guess, would be Chris Chapman, the former long-term independent media regulator from Australia. Sajid Rahman is such a common name I don’t think I could confidently make a call on his identity early doors.

What we do know is that they’re both Asia-Pac, and they’re both replacing one-term African directors.

Leaving the board at the AGM will be NomCom’s 2019 picks Mandla Msimang from South Africa and Ihab Osman from Sudan. This means the sole remaining voting African on the board come October will be South African Alan Barrett.

Msimang leaving and being replaced by a man of course changes the gender mix. After the AGM, there will be six women on the 20-seat board, five out of the 16 voting seats.

Note that I’m not analyzing the picks by some subjective “woke” criteria — ICANN has strict rules about geographic representation in its bylaws and every year its board of directors encourages NomCom to consider the gender mix when making its selections.

The bylaws state that each of the five geographic regions must have at least one seat on the board, and that no one region can have more than five directors.

That said, ICANN doesn’t make it easy to figure out which directors hail from which regions. There’s no published breakdown that I’m aware of and many directors have multiple citizenships and/or are long-term residents of nations outside their birth region.

Two other directors have their current terms ending next month — GNSO appointee Becky Burr (North America), who has been reappointed for a third term, and Akinori Maemura (Asia-Pac) who is being replaced by Christian Kaufmann (Europe) as an ASO appointee.

NomCom broke down the gender and geographic mix of applicants for all the open board and non-board positions here.

ICANN names NomCom chairs

Kevin Murphy, July 18, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN has announced its picks for chair and chair-elect of its influential Nominating Committee, raising questions about the latter role for not the first time.

The board of directors has picked Vanda Scartezini as chair and Amir Qayyum as chair elect, according to a newly published resolution.

It’s the third time in recent years that the previous year’s chair-elect, in this case Damon Ashcraft, has not gone on to become chair, as the ICANN bylaws anticipate.

The bylaws say that the chair-elect, who does not have a vote, is basically an apprentice to the chair who spends a year on the committee to prepare her or him for the big seat. The bylaws also say that the ICANN board can pick another person for chair if it wants to.

In this case, while Scartezini was on the 2022 committee she was not chair-elect.

Something similar happened last year, when the board picked 2021 chair-elect Tracy Hackshaw for chair, then changed its mind two weeks later.

It also caused a controversy in the 2015 cycle when it snubbed Ron Andruff.

The NomCom is responsible for picking several leadership roles in the ICANN community, including three directors per year.

New chair Scartezini is from the At-Large community and Brazil. Qayyum is from the root server community and Pakistan.

Surprise eleventh-hour picks for NomCom leadership after ICANN U-turn

Kevin Murphy, October 14, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN has named the new chair of its influential Nominating Committee, and it’s not who you might have expected.

The Org last night said Michael Graham will chair NomCom for the 2022 cycle, with Damon Ashcraft taking the chair-elect role.

The news came weeks later than expected — live during an online Prep Week session of ICANN 72 last night in fact — and followed a secretive ICANN vote that saw the board of directors U-turn on its initial selection.

ICANN said that 2021 chair-elect Tracy Hackshaw — who under ICANN convention was the heir apparent for the chair, replacing Ole Jacobsen — had “withdrew his candidacy for 2022 NomCom Chair due to a new professional role he has taken”.

No additional information on the withdrawal, which came as a surprise even to NomCom insiders, was made available. Hackshaw has not responded to an October 5 request for comment and does not appear to have addressed his withdrawal in public.

It’s the second time in recent years a chair-elect has not gone on to take the chair. In 2015, Ron Andruff was snubbed after poor peer-evaluation results. Hackshaw, however, appears to have scored more respectably in his review.

While the leadership picks were not revealed until the 11th hour, it seems ICANN actually made its choice in secret two weeks ago.

In a September 30 vote, the board selected Graham and Ashcraft.

But that resolution actually overrode and replaced a September 12 resolution, which was never published, appointing Hackshaw as NomCom chair. The September 30 resolution states:

Whereas, prior to publishing the Approved Resolutions of the 12 September 2021 Board meeting, the Board became aware of new information that is relevant to the evaluation of candidates.

Whereas, taking into account this new information, the BGC has recommended that the Board rescind its previous resolution and approve Michael Graham be appointed as the 2022 NomCom Chair and J. Damon Ashcraft be appointed as the 2022 NomCom Chair-Elect

That resolution was redacted in its entirety until last night. For some reason ICANN found it necessary to keep its NomCom picks secret until the very last moment.

The 2022 NomCom has the responsibility of picking three ICANN directors, one member of the Public Technical Identifiers board, two ALAC reps, and one member each of the ccNSO Council and GNSO Council.

Both chair and chair-elect are IP lawyers. New chair Graham is travel company Expedia’s top IP guy, and Ashcraft is a partner at the law firm Snell & Wilmer. It’s Ashcraft’s second go at the job in recent years, having chaired the 2019 committee.

Due to the leadership kerfuffle, the NomCom is starting its work on this cycle slightly later than usual.

ICANN director picks for 2021 revealed

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Nominating Committee has revealed its three picks for the organization’s board of directors, with one member been swapped out for a newcomer.

Lito Ibarra will be replaced by Edmon Chung, while Danko Jevtović and Tripti Sinha see their seats kept safe for their respective second three-year terms.

Ibarra works for El Salvador’s .sv top-level domain registry and represented the Latin America region on the board. By the time the handover occurs in October, he will have served two of his possible three-year terms.

He’s being replaced by Chung, a long-time industry and ICANN participant perhaps best known as the CEO of DotAsia, which runs .asia. As you might expect, he represents the Asia-Pacific region.

While the appointments clearly alter the regional mix somewhat, they equally clearly do nothing to tilt the gender balance on the male-heavy board, which ICANN has stated is a desirable goal for NomCom.

NomCom also revealed its picks for two members of the GNSO Council, one member of the ccNSO Council and three members of the At-Large Advisory Committee, which include some familiar names.

NomCom said it had 116 applications in total, over half of which came from Africa and Asia-Pac.

For the first time since 2006, ICANN did not disclose the gender mix of the applicants. It’s not clear why.

The full list of successful applicants can be found here.

It’s pandemic continuity versus gender diversity in ICANN’s board wish-list

Kevin Murphy, January 13, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Nominating Committee will be asked to pit two fundamentally opposed principles against each other when they pick three members of the organization’s board of directors this year.

Board chair Maarten Botterman has asked NomCom to prioritize continuity — keeping experienced directors in place — while also increasing gender diversity in the male-heavy current line-up.

Botterman this week sent a letter (pdf) to NomCom chair Ole Jacobsen, offering guidance virtually identical to that found in a December 2019 letter (pdf) to his predecessor.

The two most significant changes concern the impact on the board’s work of the coronavirus pandemic.

Noting that it typically takes a year or two for new directors to learn the ropes, and that it’s useful to have a staggered mix of tenures among the board, Botterman goes on to say:

Continuity is particularly important this year given the recent departure of the Board’s longest-serving, term- limited member and the ongoing challenges arising from the pandemic, including uncertainties about when the full Board may be next able to move from its current remote schedule to in-person meetings.

The long-serving member who left was presumably Chris Disspain, certainly one of the most active directors in recent years.

Later, Botterman’s letter contains an entirely new paragraph explaining what a time vampire ICANN directorship can be:

We underscore the significant time commitment required of Board members. Applicants must be able to devote weeks and long hours throughout the year to Board service, and even more because of the challenges caused by the pandemic. Among many other key initiatives, one focus in the upcoming year will be understanding and evaluating the expected recommendations from the policy development process on Subsequent Procedures regarding the next round of new gTLDs (as well as implementation of several Board-approved recommendations from community groups).

That, at least, should provide some comfort to those champing at the bit to get the next round of new gTLDs up and running — ICANN clearly expects it to happen at some point in the next four years.

So there’s a definite, newly emphasized focus on continuity at ICANN.

That’s good news for Lito Ibarra, Danko Jevtović and Tripti Sinha, the three NomCom appointees whose current terms end this coming October. Ibarra is on his second three-year term, the other two on their first. All are eligible for reselection.

The Botterman letter is less encouraging for Ibarra and Jevtović, who are men. ICANN is still seeking to increase gender diversity on its board, which only currently has five female voting members of 16 total directors.

While the wording is slightly different to the 2020 guidance, the essence is the same:

The ICANN community has also expressed strong support for efforts to increase diversity along several axes, especially including gender diversity, across the ICANN eco-system. Without compromising the fundamental requirement to have Board members with the necessary integrity, skills, experience, the Board would find it helpful to have greater gender diversity on the Board.

NomCom may find this pressure is relieved slightly by the fact that current ccNSO representative to the board, Nigel Roberts, is being replaced by Katrina Sataki of the Latvian ccTLD registry this October, following an election last month.

The Address Supporting Organization’s rep, Ron Da Silva, is also ending his current term this year. He’s up for reselection against nine other candidates, three of whom are female.

Two American women appointed to ICANN board

Kevin Murphy, October 5, 2020, Domain Policy

In a move that will surprise nobody, ICANN’s Nominating Committee has maintained the status quo on the ICANN board of directors by reappointing two of its previous selections.

NomCom’s two picks are Sarah Deutsch and Avri Doria, both of whom were selected in 2017 and have their first three-year term expiring later this month.

Deutsch is an intellectual property lawyer in private practice. She spent most of her career lawyering for Verizon. She’s also a director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Doria is a consultant who has spent most of her time at ICANN on the non-commercial side of the house.

Both appointees are classified as North American under ICANN’s geographical diversity quotas.

As I’ve previously reported, the reappointments were very likely. Not only are both directors hugely experienced community members, but ICANN had given NomCom strong hints that it wants to increase gender diversity on the board.

That won’t actually happen this year. The other directors whose terms are up this month are all male, and they’ve all either been reappointed or replaced with other men by their respective constituency groups.

Currently, just five of the 16 voting directors are female. Including the four non-voting members, that number rises to seven. With the new NomCom appointees, those numbers will remain the same for at least a year.

UPDATE October 5, 2020: Deutsch tells me she has not been with the Winterfeldt IP Group for two years. Her official bio on ICANN’s web site says she is with that company, but apparently those bios are no longer reliable. She’s now working for herself. My apologies for the error.

ICANN whistleblower expects to be fired after alleging budget irregularities, bugged meetings

Kevin Murphy, May 6, 2020, Domain Policy

The chair of ICANN’s highly influential Nominating Committee expects to lose his seat after turning whistleblower to expose what he says are budgetary irregularities and process failures that could have altered the outcome of ICANN’s board-selection process.

In a remarkable March 25 letter, Jay Sudowski even accuses ICANN of secretly recording and transcribing NomCom’s confidential deliberations.

The NomCom is the secretive committee responsible for selecting people to fill major policy-making roles at ICANN, including eight members of its board of directors. It’s made up of people drawn from all areas of the community.

Because its role is essentially to conduct job interviews with board hopefuls, it’s one of the few areas of the ICANN community whose conversations are almost entirely held in private.

But Sudowski is attempting to shine a little light on what’s going on behind the scenes by filing a broad and deep request under the Documentary Information Disclosure Policy, which is ICANN’s equivalent of a freedom of information law.

In it, he accuses ICANN Org of some fairly serious stuff.

First, he claims ICANN is fudging its budget by over-reporting how many full-time equivalent (FTE) staff members are involved in NomCom work, and by denying requests for “trivial” reimbursements of as little as $47 even as NomCom cuts costs by moving to a remote-only working model.

ICANN grants NomCom a FY20 budget of $900,000, of which $600,000 is allocated to “personnel costs” related to three FTEs.

“Nowhere near 3 FTEs are allocated to NomCom. Where is this money going?” Sudowski asks, demanding under the DIDP to see records of how much ICANN actually spent supporting NomCom’s work over the last five years.

He also claims that the NomCom process may have been compromised by allowing non-voting members to participate in decision-making meetings during the 2017 cycle, writing:

ICANN Org potentially allowed the NomCom to violate ICANN Bylaws by allowing nonvoting members of the NomCom to participate in outcome determinate components of the assessment and selection process that may have fundamentally alerted [I believe this is a typo for “altered”] the outcome of the 2017 NomCom process.

The non-voting members of the NomCom are the board-appointed chair and chair-elect, as well as appointees from the Root Server System Advisory Committee, Security and Stability Advisory Committee and Governmental Advisory Committee.

The board members appointed by NomCom in 2017 were Avri Doria and Sarah Deutsch. NomCom also picked members of the GNSO Council, ccNSO Council and At-Large Advisory Committee.

Sudowski, whose day job is running a data center company in Colorado, further claims that the ICANN board has been instructed by the Org to refuse to communicate with NomCom members.

“In recent years, ICANN Org has secretly recorded and transcribed confidential deliberations of the NomCom,” he adds.

He wants evidence of all of this to be released under the DIDP, under a nine-point list of documentation requests.

It’s unfortunate that I am forced to make this request in such a public manner, but when there is controversy over a $47 expense to support a NomCom member, I can only come to the conclusion that ICANN Org is unable and unwilling to provide necessary “administrative and operational support” for the NomCom.

He also expects retribution:

I also expect that the Board, which has been instructed to not communicate with me, will remove me from my role as Chair of the NomCom, given the nature of the concerns noted in this letter. Frankly, if this comes to pass, my removal is a clear and direct attack on the autonomy and authority of the entire NomCom.

So far, his request has not been answered.

Under the DIDP, ICANN has a maximum of 30 days to reply to such requests. In reality, this has always been treated as a minimum, with both request and response typically published on the same day, exactly 30 days after the original filing.

Its responses are typically links to information already in the public record and a list of excuses why no more info will be released.

But so far, neither request nor response has been published in the usual place, 42 days after Sudowski sent his letter. ICANN has missed its deadline by almost two weeks.

The only reason the DIDP (pdf) is in the public domain at all is that Sudowski copied it to the mailing list of the Empowered Community, ICANN’s community-based oversight body. Thanks to George Kirikos for posting the link to Twitter last week.

It is a pretty extensive request for information, that presumably would take some time to collate, so I’d be hesitant to cry “cover-up” just yet.

But the fact that the request exists at all serves to highlight the shocking lack of trust between ICANN and one of its most powerful committees.

UPDATE: Sudowski has said that his request was withdrawn. There’s no particular reason it could not be refiled by somebody else, however, as DIDP is open to all.

“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.