[Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Liam Wyatt
There are several important issues that people have raised here already -
notably the question of confidentiality of information; the question of the
membership of this "task force"; and the question of whether the
whistleblower process was effective/sufficient.

However, I'd like to refer to this point in particular:

On 2 May 2016 at 19:10, Denny Vrandečić <[hidden email]> wrote:

> This task force involved
> outside legal counsel and conducted professional fact finding. The first
> request of the task force to the Board members was to ask for all documents
> and notes pertaining to the case.


I'd like to ask about *who* this "professional fact finding" process talked
to? I'm not asking to "name specific names" but more about which groups of
people. In particular:

- I assume that the C-level [senior] staff were interviewed, but were any
non-executive staff interviewed as well? This question speaks to the level
of detail/depth that this investigation was expecting to have... I would
think that if the "task force" was serious then it would be interested in
hearing from across the organisation at all levels, and directly from the
people affected. However, if it only spoke with people in the executive of
the organisation then it would only be hearing views that either had
already been relayed to [some] members of the board by the executive, or
the views of the executive themselves. Obviously the C-Level staff
themselves should have been interviewed, but ALSO other staff so that, at
the very least, it didn't appear to be just a token-effort at investigating
claims.

- Were the Knight Foundation spoken with? Given that the apparent disparity
between what was in the grant document and what (some) on the board thought
was being build in the "knowledge engine" project, it seems important to
know if the Knight Foundation genuinely was of the same understanding as
the Board? This disparity also seems to have been a core issue to the
concerns raised by by the staff, and in the concerns that were held by
James, so it seems particularly pertinent to be checking what the the
Knight Foundation's perspective actually was.

-Liam

wittylama.com
Peace, love & metadata
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Chris Keating-2
> I'd like to ask about *who* this "professional fact finding" process talked
> to? I'm not asking to "name specific names" but more about which groups of
> people.
>

I also wonder about this - I am sort of assuming that the people who were
coming forward to raise grievances were included in the fact-finding. It
would be odd not to ;)


> - Were the Knight Foundation spoken with?
>

It might also be worth clarifying whether this was substantially related to
the Knowledge Engine issue, or whether it was a largely separate set of
grievances.

While I'm using the word "grievance" - other people have talked about the
"whistleblowing" policy - but what is being described here is what would in
the UK be treated as a "workplace grievance". I.e. a staff member being
concerned that, while their manager or another senior staff member isn't
doing anything actually fraudulent or illegal, they do feel that the
conduct of the manager concerned is having a serious impact on their own
ability to do their job.

Most UK employers have a formal grievance policy which sets out how staff
should address these issues - including in the event that staff have a
grievance about the chief executive or board members. Often these set out
expectations about confidentiality and things like appeal processes.
(Confidentiality can be a tricky one as a grievance is by its nature a
communication from a staff member to their employer, and individual mangers
or trustees actually can't promise to hear this stuff in confidence...)

I don't know if WMF has one of these - perhaps is should?
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Gerard Meijssen-3
Hoi,
I would assume that people who spoke in confidence were ASKED if they
wanted to be included. It would be really bad to approach it in any other
way.

As to the knowledge engine. Can we please put it to rest. It has always
been a big misunderstanding. It is not and has never been what the WMF is
looking for and at the same time we could do so much better at search
(having said that we are doing so much better than we did before.

If there is one thing a knowledge engine would be good for is serving our
customers needs. THAT is scary; it is not about "us", the editing
community.. woopedie woo !!
Thanks,
        GerardM

On 4 May 2016 at 12:24, Chris Keating <[hidden email]> wrote:

> > I'd like to ask about *who* this "professional fact finding" process
> talked
> > to? I'm not asking to "name specific names" but more about which groups
> of
> > people.
> >
>
> I also wonder about this - I am sort of assuming that the people who were
> coming forward to raise grievances were included in the fact-finding. It
> would be odd not to ;)
>
>
> > - Were the Knight Foundation spoken with?
> >
>
> It might also be worth clarifying whether this was substantially related to
> the Knowledge Engine issue, or whether it was a largely separate set of
> grievances.
>
> While I'm using the word "grievance" - other people have talked about the
> "whistleblowing" policy - but what is being described here is what would in
> the UK be treated as a "workplace grievance". I.e. a staff member being
> concerned that, while their manager or another senior staff member isn't
> doing anything actually fraudulent or illegal, they do feel that the
> conduct of the manager concerned is having a serious impact on their own
> ability to do their job.
>
> Most UK employers have a formal grievance policy which sets out how staff
> should address these issues - including in the event that staff have a
> grievance about the chief executive or board members. Often these set out
> expectations about confidentiality and things like appeal processes.
> (Confidentiality can be a tricky one as a grievance is by its nature a
> communication from a staff member to their employer, and individual mangers
> or trustees actually can't promise to hear this stuff in confidence...)
>
> I don't know if WMF has one of these - perhaps is should?
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Jake Orlowitz
In reply to this post by Denny Vrandečić-2
In my personal opinion and recollection, two of the points raised above are
on-target:

1) Several staff, including myself, explicitly sought out Board members
whom they did not view as a directly loyal conduit to Lila, precisely
because they feared retribution from them/her.

2) The whistleblower policy was indeed insufficient because even very
serious ethical complaints raised did not rise to the level of strict
illegality.

We can do better.

Jake Orlowitz (Ocaasi)
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Dariusz Jemielniak-3
On Wed, May 4, 2016 at 3:43 PM, Jake Orlowitz <[hidden email]> wrote:

> 2) The whistleblower policy was indeed insufficient because even very
> serious ethical complaints raised did not rise to the level of strict
> illegality.
>

without referring to issues in the past, I think that a constructive way to
improve our governance would be to consider how our policies (including the
whistleblower policy) are adequate for all possible scenarios organizations
of our size and type may encounter.

One of the things that I personally would definitely like to discuss and
consider would be the staff liaison to the Board, present at the Board
meetings to some extent.

best,

dj

("pundit", current trustee)
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Tim Starling-2
In reply to this post by MZMcBride-2
On 04/05/16 12:02, MZMcBride wrote:
> https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Whistleblower_policy
>
> You mention anonymous complaints and serious concerns, but the current
> whistleblower policy seems to be pretty clear that it only applies to
> laws, rules, and regulations. The text of the policy indicates, to me at
> least, that even alleged violations of other Wikimedia Foundation policies
> would not be covered by the whistleblower policy. Would you extend the
> Wikimedia Foundation whistleblower policy to cover regular (i.e.,
> non-legal and non-regulatory) grievances?

The third and fourth paragraphs are not so narrow, but otherwise, yes,
I think it should be extended.

> My understanding is that the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees sought
> out and then appointed a tech-minded chief executive, who came from a tech
> organization, in order to "transform" the Wikimedia Foundation from an
> educational non-profit to be more like a traditional tech company. Many
> employees of the Wikimedia Foundation disagreed with this decision and the
> chief executive made a series of poor hires who ran amok (looking at you,
> Damon), but I don't think anything rose to the level of illegal behavior.

You are just regurgitating Lila's email. No transformation was
attempted or executed. The first time I heard about this supposed
conflict over strategy was when Lila posted her claims about it to
this list, shortly before her resignation.

In fact, employees disagreed with Lila's decision to pursue large
restricted grants for a stupid pet project, in secret, supported by
almost nobody, without Board knowledge let alone approval. This has
nothing to do with education versus technology (if such a dichotomy
can even be said to exist).

Damon merely suggested the project in question, he did not "run amok".

-- Tim Starling


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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Katie Horn
It seems to me, that the question of whether or not we should consider
extending the scope of the whistleblower policy, can be reduced to a
question of whether or not we believe that United States law at any given
moment is an ideal representation of unacceptable conduct.

Either way, I would be deeply encouraged to see progress in creating a more
robust and predictable connection between the board and WMF staff. Whether
that connection ends up being a board liaison or something else, I suspect
that well-established lines of communication would go a very long way
toward eliminating the possibility that large numbers of staff will feel
like they have to disassemble the whistleblower policy in the first place.

-Katie

On Wed, May 4, 2016 at 6:10 PM, Tim Starling <[hidden email]>
wrote:

> On 04/05/16 12:02, MZMcBride wrote:
> > https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Whistleblower_policy
> >
> > You mention anonymous complaints and serious concerns, but the current
> > whistleblower policy seems to be pretty clear that it only applies to
> > laws, rules, and regulations. The text of the policy indicates, to me at
> > least, that even alleged violations of other Wikimedia Foundation
> policies
> > would not be covered by the whistleblower policy. Would you extend the
> > Wikimedia Foundation whistleblower policy to cover regular (i.e.,
> > non-legal and non-regulatory) grievances?
>
> The third and fourth paragraphs are not so narrow, but otherwise, yes,
> I think it should be extended.
>
> > My understanding is that the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees
> sought
> > out and then appointed a tech-minded chief executive, who came from a
> tech
> > organization, in order to "transform" the Wikimedia Foundation from an
> > educational non-profit to be more like a traditional tech company. Many
> > employees of the Wikimedia Foundation disagreed with this decision and
> the
> > chief executive made a series of poor hires who ran amok (looking at you,
> > Damon), but I don't think anything rose to the level of illegal behavior.
>
> You are just regurgitating Lila's email. No transformation was
> attempted or executed. The first time I heard about this supposed
> conflict over strategy was when Lila posted her claims about it to
> this list, shortly before her resignation.
>
> In fact, employees disagreed with Lila's decision to pursue large
> restricted grants for a stupid pet project, in secret, supported by
> almost nobody, without Board knowledge let alone approval. This has
> nothing to do with education versus technology (if such a dichotomy
> can even be said to exist).
>
> Damon merely suggested the project in question, he did not "run amok".
>
> -- Tim Starling
>
>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Tim Starling-2
In reply to this post by Tim Starling-2
On 05/05/16 11:10, Tim Starling wrote:
> In fact, employees disagreed with Lila's decision to pursue large
> restricted grants for a stupid pet project, in secret, supported by
> almost nobody, without Board knowledge let alone approval. This has
> nothing to do with education versus technology (if such a dichotomy
> can even be said to exist).

It's likely that at some point, someone said to Lila "I don't think
building a new Internet search engine to take on Google is within our
(educational) mission". Perhaps that's where her "strategic conflict"
story came from. It's a good point, but it's certainly not the only
problem with the proposal, and it wasn't the subject of the complaints
made against her. The conflict between Lila and the rest of the staff
was over process, not strategy.

-- Tim Starling


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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

MZMcBride-2
In reply to this post by Tim Starling-2
Tim Starling wrote:

>On 04/05/16 12:02, MZMcBride wrote:
>> My understanding is that the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees
>>sought out and then appointed a tech-minded chief executive, who came
>>from a tech organization, in order to "transform" the Wikimedia
>>Foundation from an educational non-profit to be more like a traditional
>>tech company. Many employees of the Wikimedia Foundation disagreed with
>>this decision and the chief executive made a series of poor hires who
>>ran amok (looking at you, Damon), but I don't think anything rose to the
>>level of illegal behavior.
>
>You are just regurgitating Lila's email. No transformation was
>attempted or executed. The first time I heard about this supposed
>conflict over strategy was when Lila posted her claims about it to
>this list, shortly before her resignation.

Here's an April 2015 e-mail from Lila announcing a large reorganization of
the Wikimedia Foundation's engineering team:
https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2015-April/077619.html

I think a transformation was both attempted and executed. I'm citing a
specific example, but there are others from Lila's two-year stint. As
<http://mollywhite.net/wikimedia-timeline/> notes, "The reorganization is
later described as poorly handled, and it is criticized for being based on
assumptions of an impractically large budget increase." When people were
making a case for removing Lila as Executive Director of the Wikimedia
Foundation, this departmental reorganization was repeatedly mentioned.

Comments from individual Board members and community members lead me to
believe that there continues to be an enormous amount of uncertainty about
the direction and strategy of the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimedia
movement. How large should the Wikimedia Foundation be, in terms of
full-time staff and in terms of annual budget? How much and what work
should the Wikimedia Foundation be doing this year and over the next five
years? The Wikimedia Foundation's previous strategic plan expired at the
end of 2015. In my opinion, there's unquestionably ongoing, unresolved
conflict over strategy, among Wikimedia Foundation staff, Wikimedia
Foundation Board of Trustees members, and among the Wikimedia community.

In my view, a previous iteration of the Board of Trustees and Wikimedia
Foundation leadership, in choosing Lila to head the Wikimedia Foundation,
made a decision, perhaps implicitly and obliquely, about at least the
short-term future of the Wikimedia Foundation. I don't believe Sue and
members of the Board of Trustees were unaware of Lila's background or how
she would likely influence the direction of the organization.

>In fact, employees disagreed with Lila's decision to pursue large
>restricted grants for a stupid pet project, in secret, supported by
>almost nobody, without Board knowledge let alone approval. This has
>nothing to do with education versus technology (if such a dichotomy
>can even be said to exist).

In most contexts, that's the nature of having a boss and working for an
organization. You won't agree with every decision, in substance, in
execution, in visibility and transparency. In the specific case of the
Knight Foundation grant, the Board of Trustees both knew about it and
specifically approved it. This is noted at
<https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Minutes/2015-11>. Are there other
stupid pet projects or grant applications you're referring to?

The point I was making with the specific whistleblower policy and policies
similar to it is that they are explicitly not intended to be used to
subvert authority or promote insubordination among staff who disagree with
a decision of the head of the organization.

>Damon merely suggested the project in question, he did not "run amok".

I used the phrase "run amok" based on comments at
<https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_Engine/FAQ>. Specifically,
Brion Vibber writes:

"Former VP of Engineering Damon Sicore, who as far as I know conceived the
'knowledge engine', shopped the idea around in secret (to the point of
GPG-encrypting emails about it) with the idea that Google/etc form an
'existential threat' to Wikipedia in the long term by co-opting our
traffic, potentially reducing the inflow of new contributors via the
'reader -> editor' pipeline. [...]"

Jimmy Wales replies:

"It is important, most likely, that people know that Damon's secrecy was
not something that was known to me or the rest of the board. I've only
yesterday been sent, by a longtime member of staff who prefers to remain
anonymous, the document that Damon was passing around GPG-encrypted with
strict orders to keep it top secret. Apparently, he (and he alone, as far
as I can tell) really was advocating for taking a run at Google. [...]"

These same individuals posted to this mailing list:
https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082150.html
https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-March/083163.html

This reported secrecy and cloak-and-dagger behavior is what I'm referring
to when I say Damon ran amok. I suppose we can leave it as an exercise to
the reader whether "run amok" is accurate phrasing given the evidence
presented. Upon reading the previous comments that Damon, not Lila, was
responsible for the secrecy, I'm perplexed by your recent comment
regarding "Lila's decision." What am I missing?

MZMcBride



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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Pine W
In reply to this post by Tim Starling-2
I will make a suggestion that I have made previously: that there should be
an external firm, probably a law firm experienced with nonprofit
governance, brought in to examine and publicize the facts regarding the
Foundation's Board governance and to make recommendations for changes to
policies and practices. Particular areas of concern are the facts
surrounding James' departure, the Board's supervision of Lila, and the
Amnon Geshuri situation from start to finish. There was a similar inquiry
with WMUK's Board a few years ago, and it seems to me that a similar
inquiry should happen at WMF.

The continuing public disputes among current and former board members serve
to illustrate that there is a major problem, and that the credibility of
the Board as an effective institution remains in doubt. A partial remedy
for this is a full and public accounting by a knowledgeable, experienced,
and impartial inquiry. I feel that this would be in WMF's best interest in
the long term.

Pine
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

jytdog
I like that, Pine.  I would add, procedure to disclose and manage conflicts
of interest that board members might have, in our context.  That would
bring in the matters around Denny's departure. Those four things.

On Wed, May 4, 2016 at 11:13 PM, Pine W <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I will make a suggestion that I have made previously: that there should be
> an external firm, probably a law firm experienced with nonprofit
> governance, brought in to examine and publicize the facts regarding the
> Foundation's Board governance and to make recommendations for changes to
> policies and practices. Particular areas of concern are the facts
> surrounding James' departure, the Board's supervision of Lila, and the
> Amnon Geshuri situation from start to finish. There was a similar inquiry
> with WMUK's Board a few years ago, and it seems to me that a similar
> inquiry should happen at WMF.
>
> The continuing public disputes among current and former board members serve
> to illustrate that there is a major problem, and that the credibility of
> the Board as an effective institution remains in doubt. A partial remedy
> for this is a full and public accounting by a knowledgeable, experienced,
> and impartial inquiry. I feel that this would be in WMF's best interest in
> the long term.
>
> Pine
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Andreas Kolbe-2
In reply to this post by MZMcBride-2
On Thu, May 5, 2016 at 5:00 AM, MZMcBride <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I used the phrase "run amok" based on comments at
> <https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_Engine/FAQ>. Specifically,
> Brion Vibber writes:
>
> "Former VP of Engineering Damon Sicore, who as far as I know conceived the
> 'knowledge engine', shopped the idea around in secret (to the point of
> GPG-encrypting emails about it) with the idea that Google/etc form an
> 'existential threat' to Wikipedia in the long term by co-opting our
> traffic, potentially reducing the inflow of new contributors via the
> 'reader -> editor' pipeline. [...]"
>
> Jimmy Wales replies:
>
> "It is important, most likely, that people know that Damon's secrecy was
> not something that was known to me or the rest of the board. I've only
> yesterday been sent, by a longtime member of staff who prefers to remain
> anonymous, the document that Damon was passing around GPG-encrypted with
> strict orders to keep it top secret. Apparently, he (and he alone, as far
> as I can tell) really was advocating for taking a run at Google. [...]"
>


I find it interesting to compare Damon's purported concerns with those
voiced by Jimmy Wales in his October emails to James Heilman, as made
available to the Signpost:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2016-04-24/Op-ed

There we read that Wales said:

<quote>
Right now the page at www.wikipedia.org is pretty useless. There's no
question it could be improved. Is your concern that if we improve it and it
starts to look like a "search engine" in the first definition this could
cause us problems?

Are you concerned that in due course we might expand beyond just internal
search (across all our properties)?

Right now when I type "Queen Elizabeth II" I am taken to the article about
her. I'm not told about any other resources we may have about her.

If I type a search term for which there is no Wikipedia entry, I'm taken to
our wikipedia search results page – which is pretty bad.

Here's an example: search for 'how old is tom cruise?'

It returns 10 different articles, none of which are Tom Cruise!

When I search in Google – I'm just told the answer to the question. Google
got this answer from us, I'm quite sure.

So, yes, this would include Google graph type of functionality. Why is that
alarming to you?

...

I don't agree that there's a serious gulf between what we have been told
and what funders are being told.

...

Imagine if we could handle a wide range of questions that are easy enough
to do by using wikidata / data embedded in templates / textual analysis.

"How old is Tom Cruise?"

"Is Tom Cruise married?"

"How many children does Tom Cruise have?"

The reason this is relevant is that we are falling behind what users
expect. 5 years ago, questions like that simple returned Wikipedia as the
first result at Google. Now, Google just tells the answer and the users
don't come to us.
<end of quote>


When told that there clearly had been an attempt to fund a massive project
to build a search engine that was then "scoped down to a $250k exploration
for a fully developed plan", Wales replied:


<quote>
In my opinion: There was and there is and there will be. I strongly support
the effort, and I'm writing up a public blog post on that topic today. Our
entire fundraising future is at stake.
<end of quote>


Wales's concerns don't sound all that different from Sicore's to me.

Both seem to have perceived developments at Google as an existential
threat, because users get their answers there without having to navigate to
Wikipedia or Wikidata (which are among the sources from which Google takes
its answers).

Nor do I think these concerns are entirely unfounded. By opting for a CC
licence allowing full commercial re-use, years ago, Wikipedia set itself up
to be cannibalised in precisely that way.

For better or worse, it relinquished all control over how and by whom its
knowledge would be presented. It should hardly come as a surprise that
commercial operators then step up to exploit that vacuum, set up commercial
operations based on Wikimedia content, and eventually draw users away.

Moreover, the current search function does suck. Anyone looking for a
picture on Commons for example is better off using Google than the internal
search function.

What I don't understand is why all the secrecy and double-talk was
necessary.




> These same individuals posted to this mailing list:
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082150.html
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-March/083163.html
>
> This reported secrecy and cloak-and-dagger behavior is what I'm referring
> to when I say Damon ran amok. I suppose we can leave it as an exercise to
> the reader whether "run amok" is accurate phrasing given the evidence
> presented. Upon reading the previous comments that Damon, not Lila, was
> responsible for the secrecy, I'm perplexed by your recent comment
> regarding "Lila's decision." What am I missing?



Damon left in July 2015. Secrecy around the Knowledge Engine project and
the Knight grant lasted until February 2016. Perhaps this no longer
involved GPG encryption, but as late as 29 January 2016 Lila still led the
community to believe that "donor privacy" issues were the reason why the
board didn't publish the Knight Foundation grant agreement:

https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User_talk:LilaTretikov_(WMF)/Archive_12#Why_did_the_board_not_publish_this_grant_paperwork.3F

Yet the donor was in favour of full transparency ...
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Dariusz Jemielniak-3
In reply to this post by Katie Horn
04.05.2016 22:00 "Katie Horn" <[hidden email]> napisał(a):

>
> Either way, I would be deeply encouraged to see progress in creating a
more
> robust and predictable connection between the board and WMF staff. Whether
> that connection ends up being a board liaison or something else, I suspect
> that well-established lines of communication would go a very long way
> toward eliminating the possibility that large numbers of staff will feel
> like they have to disassemble the whistleblower policy in the first place.

A conversation on how to address (a) connection with the staff and (b)
revise the whistleblower policy has started and we will try to address both
of these issues in the near future.
Best,

Dj

>
> -Katie
>
> On Wed, May 4, 2016 at 6:10 PM, Tim Starling <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
>
> > On 04/05/16 12:02, MZMcBride wrote:
> > > https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Whistleblower_policy
> > >
> > > You mention anonymous complaints and serious concerns, but the current
> > > whistleblower policy seems to be pretty clear that it only applies to
> > > laws, rules, and regulations. The text of the policy indicates, to me
at

> > > least, that even alleged violations of other Wikimedia Foundation
> > policies
> > > would not be covered by the whistleblower policy. Would you extend the
> > > Wikimedia Foundation whistleblower policy to cover regular (i.e.,
> > > non-legal and non-regulatory) grievances?
> >
> > The third and fourth paragraphs are not so narrow, but otherwise, yes,
> > I think it should be extended.
> >
> > > My understanding is that the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees
> > sought
> > > out and then appointed a tech-minded chief executive, who came from a
> > tech
> > > organization, in order to "transform" the Wikimedia Foundation from an
> > > educational non-profit to be more like a traditional tech company.
Many
> > > employees of the Wikimedia Foundation disagreed with this decision and
> > the
> > > chief executive made a series of poor hires who ran amok (looking at
you,
> > > Damon), but I don't think anything rose to the level of illegal
behavior.

> >
> > You are just regurgitating Lila's email. No transformation was
> > attempted or executed. The first time I heard about this supposed
> > conflict over strategy was when Lila posted her claims about it to
> > this list, shortly before her resignation.
> >
> > In fact, employees disagreed with Lila's decision to pursue large
> > restricted grants for a stupid pet project, in secret, supported by
> > almost nobody, without Board knowledge let alone approval. This has
> > nothing to do with education versus technology (if such a dichotomy
> > can even be said to exist).
> >
> > Damon merely suggested the project in question, he did not "run amok".
> >
> > -- Tim Starling
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> >
> _______________________________________________
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https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
<mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Denny Vrandečić-2
Just a few points of clarification:

* I have, to the best of my memory, passed on information only with the
understanding of my sources. If any of my sources disagrees with that,
please send me a message - I want to know and understand that I made a
mistake there.
* We are not talking about the information being shared with the whole
Board (this was not clear from my account, sorry). No one was asked to
forward information to the whole Board. Instead, external legal counsel was
collecting the documents: they were sent to the lawyers, under
attorney-client privilege, not to the whole Board or the Task Force.
* I am surprised to see James state that he was informed at a later point
that his duty as a trustee is towards the WMF, although that explains a few
things. He was sitting in the same room when we received legal training at
our first Board meeting, and he also signed (and, I assume, read) the same
documents I had.

I am rather sad to see so many assumptions of bad faith. I was hoping that
by being more open about the events, it would help with transparency and
healing. It was not easy to have this account published in the first place,
and now I start to see that it was possibly a mistake.

It strengthens my resolution to stay away from Wikimedia politics, and I
hope that this will free up the time and energy to get more things done. I
am thankful and full of respect for anyone who is willing to deal with that
topic in a constructive manner.


On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 3:46 AM Dariusz Jemielniak <[hidden email]> wrote:

> 04.05.2016 22:00 "Katie Horn" <[hidden email]> napisał(a):
>
> >
> > Either way, I would be deeply encouraged to see progress in creating a
> more
> > robust and predictable connection between the board and WMF staff.
> Whether
> > that connection ends up being a board liaison or something else, I
> suspect
> > that well-established lines of communication would go a very long way
> > toward eliminating the possibility that large numbers of staff will feel
> > like they have to disassemble the whistleblower policy in the first
> place.
>
> A conversation on how to address (a) connection with the staff and (b)
> revise the whistleblower policy has started and we will try to address both
> of these issues in the near future.
> Best,
>
> Dj
>
> >
> > -Katie
> >
> > On Wed, May 4, 2016 at 6:10 PM, Tim Starling <[hidden email]>
> > wrote:
> >
> > > On 04/05/16 12:02, MZMcBride wrote:
> > > > https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Whistleblower_policy
> > > >
> > > > You mention anonymous complaints and serious concerns, but the
> current
> > > > whistleblower policy seems to be pretty clear that it only applies to
> > > > laws, rules, and regulations. The text of the policy indicates, to me
> at
> > > > least, that even alleged violations of other Wikimedia Foundation
> > > policies
> > > > would not be covered by the whistleblower policy. Would you extend
> the
> > > > Wikimedia Foundation whistleblower policy to cover regular (i.e.,
> > > > non-legal and non-regulatory) grievances?
> > >
> > > The third and fourth paragraphs are not so narrow, but otherwise, yes,
> > > I think it should be extended.
> > >
> > > > My understanding is that the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees
> > > sought
> > > > out and then appointed a tech-minded chief executive, who came from a
> > > tech
> > > > organization, in order to "transform" the Wikimedia Foundation from
> an
> > > > educational non-profit to be more like a traditional tech company.
> Many
> > > > employees of the Wikimedia Foundation disagreed with this decision
> and
> > > the
> > > > chief executive made a series of poor hires who ran amok (looking at
> you,
> > > > Damon), but I don't think anything rose to the level of illegal
> behavior.
> > >
> > > You are just regurgitating Lila's email. No transformation was
> > > attempted or executed. The first time I heard about this supposed
> > > conflict over strategy was when Lila posted her claims about it to
> > > this list, shortly before her resignation.
> > >
> > > In fact, employees disagreed with Lila's decision to pursue large
> > > restricted grants for a stupid pet project, in secret, supported by
> > > almost nobody, without Board knowledge let alone approval. This has
> > > nothing to do with education versus technology (if such a dichotomy
> > > can even be said to exist).
> > >
> > > Damon merely suggested the project in question, he did not "run amok".
> > >
> > > -- Tim Starling
> > >
> > >
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > > <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> > >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> _______________________________________________
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> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Nathan Awrich
On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 12:03 PM, Denny Vrandečić <[hidden email]>
wrote:

> Just a few points of clarification:
>
> * I have, to the best of my memory, passed on information only with the
> understanding of my sources. If any of my sources disagrees with that,
> please send me a message - I want to know and understand that I made a
> mistake there.
> * We are not talking about the information being shared with the whole
> Board (this was not clear from my account, sorry). No one was asked to
> forward information to the whole Board. Instead, external legal counsel was
> collecting the documents: they were sent to the lawyers, under
> attorney-client privilege, not to the whole Board or the Task Force.
> * I am surprised to see James state that he was informed at a later point
> that his duty as a trustee is towards the WMF, although that explains a few
> things. He was sitting in the same room when we received legal training at
> our first Board meeting, and he also signed (and, I assume, read) the same
> documents I had.
>
> I am rather sad to see so many assumptions of bad faith. I was hoping that
> by being more open about the events, it would help with transparency and
> healing. It was not easy to have this account published in the first place,
> and now I start to see that it was possibly a mistake.
>
> It strengthens my resolution to stay away from Wikimedia politics, and I
> hope that this will free up the time and energy to get more things done. I
> am thankful and full of respect for anyone who is willing to deal with that
> topic in a constructive manner.



Denny, thank you for your summary of events and your willingness to provide
information that wasn't widely available. I hope you continue to be willing
to do that, even understanding that there is no guarantee that criticism
will not be part of the result. Talking through these things brings up
points of confusion and misunderstanding and helps clear them up for
everyone, and this is a good thing. An example - if the WMF/board hires an
outside law firm, the attorney-client privilege is between the WMF and the
firm; individual employees are not protected against disclosure of
information by the firm to the WMF because the employee is not the client,
the WMF is.
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

jmh649
Denny I never stated that I "was informed at a later point that [my] duty
as a trustee is towards the WMF". I have at all times understood that I
have a duty to the WMF and believe I have at all times fulfilled this duty.
A duty to the foundation; however, does not permit me to act unethically
and one is still required to use their own judgement.

What I did state was "Note that in later conversations I was informed that
it may not be legal for board members to promise confidentiality to
individual staff, as our ultimate duty is to the WMF as a whole".

James

On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 10:10 AM, Nathan <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 12:03 PM, Denny Vrandečić <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
>
> > Just a few points of clarification:
> >
> > * I have, to the best of my memory, passed on information only with the
> > understanding of my sources. If any of my sources disagrees with that,
> > please send me a message - I want to know and understand that I made a
> > mistake there.
> > * We are not talking about the information being shared with the whole
> > Board (this was not clear from my account, sorry). No one was asked to
> > forward information to the whole Board. Instead, external legal counsel
> was
> > collecting the documents: they were sent to the lawyers, under
> > attorney-client privilege, not to the whole Board or the Task Force.
> > * I am surprised to see James state that he was informed at a later point
> > that his duty as a trustee is towards the WMF, although that explains a
> few
> > things. He was sitting in the same room when we received legal training
> at
> > our first Board meeting, and he also signed (and, I assume, read) the
> same
> > documents I had.
> >
> > I am rather sad to see so many assumptions of bad faith. I was hoping
> that
> > by being more open about the events, it would help with transparency and
> > healing. It was not easy to have this account published in the first
> place,
> > and now I start to see that it was possibly a mistake.
> >
> > It strengthens my resolution to stay away from Wikimedia politics, and I
> > hope that this will free up the time and energy to get more things done.
> I
> > am thankful and full of respect for anyone who is willing to deal with
> that
> > topic in a constructive manner.
>
>
>
> Denny, thank you for your summary of events and your willingness to provide
> information that wasn't widely available. I hope you continue to be willing
> to do that, even understanding that there is no guarantee that criticism
> will not be part of the result. Talking through these things brings up
> points of confusion and misunderstanding and helps clear them up for
> everyone, and this is a good thing. An example - if the WMF/board hires an
> outside law firm, the attorney-client privilege is between the WMF and the
> firm; individual employees are not protected against disclosure of
> information by the firm to the WMF because the employee is not the client,
> the WMF is.
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
>



--
James Heilman
MD, CCFP-EM, Wikipedian

The Wikipedia Open Textbook of Medicine
www.opentextbookofmedicine.com
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Kevin Gorman
I talked to James throughout his trusteeship, and I have no doubt that he
for a second believed that his fidicuiary duty was towards anyone other
than the WMF. Two very different confidentiality issues have been conflated
w/r/t Jame's removal: the appropriate level of of confidentiality regarding
the KE, a significant movement engineering project (which is not terribly
high, imo,) and the appropriate level of confidentiality regarding the
concerns of staff members regarding leadership (which is much higher imo,
to the point that if James honestly believed that by disclosing a
particular piece of information revealed to him by a staff member he would
be endangering the possibility of future staff members approaching him with
similar concerns, it may be completely appropriate for James to
categorically not reveal that information.)

Fidiciuary duty is, unfortunately, an often misunderstood concept.  James'
duty was not to act how other board members thought he should act, nor how
outside counsel thought he should act.  To use an EXTREME example, and to
be clear, I have no basis to believe this was the case, if Lila had
personally committed severely inappropriate personal acts against an
individual staff member and in James' best judgement informing outside
counsel of that fact could harm the interests of the WMF- e.g., by not
having future whistleblowers' be willing to come forward to him, then it
would both be unethical and against Jame's fidicicuary duty as a trustee to
reveal this information to anyone - be they fellow board members, outside
counsel, etc.  James is absolutely 100% correct in stating that any
attorney retained by the Wikimedia Foundation, whether in-house (e.g.,
Geoff, Michelle,) or an outside firm, has, as their client, the Wikimedia
Foundation - not the staff members in question.  If outside counsel thought
that they in turn had a duty to their clients (the WMF) to reveal
information that James had revealed to them that he had received from a
staff member, outside counsel would be acting unethically if they then
didn't do so.  Jame's description of his events backs up everything he's
said publicly previously, with the exception of me adding "new WMF trustees
really need better training, and I can suggest nonprofit consultancies to
provide such if needed."

I find it bloody incredible that James, who was involved in figuring out
whether a formal task force was needed, was then excluded from it and
expected to suborn his personal judgement (which he cannot legally do) to
that of other trustees.  I know my involvement in Wikipedia-proper has been
at a nadir of late, but I've still been closely following events (and
expect that nadir to receed soon.) Ignoring Arnon, and other recent poor
decisions, I still have incredibly serious issues with the fact that we
have a trustee sitting FOR LIFE (Jimmy) who has been committing defamation
per se against James' this entire time, who is in his professional role, a
doctor.  WMF governance needs a VERY through review, and all of the issues
involved in this entire situation - including a trustee for life
continually failing his fiduciary duty by committing defamation per se
against James - needs a TRANSPARENT outside review as soon as possible, or
we face a literally existential threat to WMF's survival.

Best,
Kevin Gorman

On Sat, May 7, 2016 at 9:47 AM, James Heilman <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Denny I never stated that I "was informed at a later point that [my] duty
> as a trustee is towards the WMF". I have at all times understood that I
> have a duty to the WMF and believe I have at all times fulfilled this duty.
> A duty to the foundation; however, does not permit me to act unethically
> and one is still required to use their own judgement.
>
> What I did state was "Note that in later conversations I was informed that
> it may not be legal for board members to promise confidentiality to
> individual staff, as our ultimate duty is to the WMF as a whole".
>
> James
>
> On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 10:10 AM, Nathan <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> > On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 12:03 PM, Denny Vrandečić <[hidden email]>
> > wrote:
> >
> > > Just a few points of clarification:
> > >
> > > * I have, to the best of my memory, passed on information only with the
> > > understanding of my sources. If any of my sources disagrees with that,
> > > please send me a message - I want to know and understand that I made a
> > > mistake there.
> > > * We are not talking about the information being shared with the whole
> > > Board (this was not clear from my account, sorry). No one was asked to
> > > forward information to the whole Board. Instead, external legal counsel
> > was
> > > collecting the documents: they were sent to the lawyers, under
> > > attorney-client privilege, not to the whole Board or the Task Force.
> > > * I am surprised to see James state that he was informed at a later
> point
> > > that his duty as a trustee is towards the WMF, although that explains a
> > few
> > > things. He was sitting in the same room when we received legal training
> > at
> > > our first Board meeting, and he also signed (and, I assume, read) the
> > same
> > > documents I had.
> > >
> > > I am rather sad to see so many assumptions of bad faith. I was hoping
> > that
> > > by being more open about the events, it would help with transparency
> and
> > > healing. It was not easy to have this account published in the first
> > place,
> > > and now I start to see that it was possibly a mistake.
> > >
> > > It strengthens my resolution to stay away from Wikimedia politics, and
> I
> > > hope that this will free up the time and energy to get more things
> done.
> > I
> > > am thankful and full of respect for anyone who is willing to deal with
> > that
> > > topic in a constructive manner.
> >
> >
> >
> > Denny, thank you for your summary of events and your willingness to
> provide
> > information that wasn't widely available. I hope you continue to be
> willing
> > to do that, even understanding that there is no guarantee that criticism
> > will not be part of the result. Talking through these things brings up
> > points of confusion and misunderstanding and helps clear them up for
> > everyone, and this is a good thing. An example - if the WMF/board hires
> an
> > outside law firm, the attorney-client privilege is between the WMF and
> the
> > firm; individual employees are not protected against disclosure of
> > information by the firm to the WMF because the employee is not the
> client,
> > the WMF is.
> > _______________________________________________
> > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> >
>
>
>
> --
> James Heilman
> MD, CCFP-EM, Wikipedian
>
> The Wikipedia Open Textbook of Medicine
> www.opentextbookofmedicine.com
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Todd Allen
Denny,

I appreciate that you've put forth this account. That's in no way facetious
or just a pretext, I am actually very glad to see someone speak to this.

I'd like, however, to suggest what would actually begin the process of
healing, since that's your intent. Most of us knew at least more or less
what James was accused of.

First, James needs to be restored to the Board, or at very least, his
restoration needs to be passed as a referendum to the community. Since
you've now posted your side, there's no reason that the community, rather
than the Board, shouldn't decide on James' trusteeship. That needs to
happen now, not at the next election, and it should have happened to start
with.

Second, the Board needs to resolve never to remove a community trustee
except by a successful recall referendum to the community. The Board should
never, under any circumstances, remove a community trustee without consent
of the community that elected them. That was unacceptable and must never
happen again. There will be no "healing" without a promise that it will not.

Third, the "founder" seat needs to be eliminated. Jimmy would be, of
course, eligible to run for a community seat or be appointed to an expert
seat, but he shouldn't be a "member for life". Alternatively, the "founder"
seat could be made into an advisory, non-voting position.

And finally, while this part is optional, it wouldn't hurt for the Board to
increase the number of community elected ( and not "recommended", elected)
seats to a majority. While there's room for "expert" appointed seats and
chapter selected seats (and no, chapter selected seats are NOT community
selected seats), the community should be in control and have a majority,
and the others should be an advisory minority. The community has always
been in charge of WMF projects, and this should continue to be the case.

If you want to actually start the healing process, rather than deflect, at
the very least the first three things need to be done. If you want to
regain trust, all of them need to be. The community needs to be in charge.

Todd
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Pete Forsyth-2
In reply to this post by Denny Vrandečić-2
Denny,

Like Todd and others, I appreciate your candid exposition of how things
went. It's important to have clarity about what happened here, and your
contributions are very helpful toward that end. Thank you.

However, these words ring hollow:

On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 9:03 AM, Denny Vrandečić <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> It strengthens my resolution to stay away from Wikimedia politics


You have also told us that you, a community-(s)elected trustee, played a
key role in the removal another community-(s)elected trustee:

Denny Vrandečić <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I suggested James’ removal.


In so doing, you perpetrated perhaps the most brazen and unjustified
*political *act in the history of the Wikimedia Foundation. What could be
more political than pursuing the removal of your fellow appointee?

Your claim to want to avoid politics rings hollow. If you want to be a
political operative, that's fine -- there is no shame in that. Own it, and
do it. Follow your conscience, and act in your political capacity to the
best of your ability. But don't then denounce the very tool you used.
That's beneath you, and it does nothing to advance the discussion.

I know you are smarter than this. I endorsed your candidacy
<http://wikistrategies.net/wikimedia-board-candidate-recommendations/> --
for the political position of Trustee -- because I believed in your ability
to grasp the values of the Wikimedia community, build consensus, and lead
us all in a better direction. You demonstrated your ability to do so
through your efforts with Wikidata. But your more recent actions have led
to the premature departure of not one, but *two *people (including
yourself) entrusted by Wikimedia volunteers to carry this movement forward.

Politics is a tool. It's not good or bad, it just is. When people with
varying points of view want to work together, you end up with politics.
Politics can be handled in a way that moves things forward smoothly with
extensive buy-in, or they can be handled in a way that produces pain and
impedes progress.

It is becoming vividly clear that Doc James was working in the best
interests of Wikimedia and WMF throughout his short tenure as a Trustee.
His efforts may not have been perfect, but they were clearly sincere,
well-intentioned, and in fact more reflective of reality than any of his
peers, including yourself.

And yet you led an effort to remove him.

I am disappointed.

-Pete
[[User:Peteforsyth]]
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Account of the events leading to James Heilman's removal

Chris Keating-2
In reply to this post by Todd Allen
> Second, the Board needs to resolve never to remove a community trustee
> except by a successful recall referendum to the community. The Board
should
> never, under any circumstances, remove a community trustee without consent
> of the community that elected them.
Are you sure about this?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation with James, I think it's a
hostage to fortune.

If there were a seriously dysfunctional trustee in future then this would
amplify the damage they could do quite a bit, by making them unsackable.

Regards,

Chris
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