[CCWG-ACCT] Staff accountability

Kieren McCarthy kieren at kierenmccarthy.com
Thu Jul 16 22:40:40 UTC 2015

So, follow my logic here:

* Who is ICANN corporate ultimately accountable to (according to everyone)?
The ICANN/internet community

* What is the main stated goal of this accountability working group? To
empower the community to increase the accountability around ICANN and its

* What is the big sticking point on most issues? The creation of a new
group or a structural change.

Let's take the recent .Africa IRP as a good example of accountability.
Because it is.

Here's what happened - simple facts:

* The ICANN Board did not do its job sufficiently well. It did not ask the
GAC for an actual rationale. And DCA went through all ICANN's
accountability mechanisms - twice with subsets of the Board failing to act
"neutrally or fairly" - and was rejected each time, until there was an
independent group that looked at the issue. The Board failed.

* The staff failed. Not accounting for the fact that it repeatedly argued
that the IRP did not have the right to do what it did, the staff did not
act neutrally and fairly. By their own admission, they intervened in favor
of one party. And then they redacted that information from the final
report, not even telling the Board that they had done so. The staff failed.

Now, who exactly are these two groups now accountable to? Who is able to
get to the bottom of this, find out what went wrong and make sure lessons
are learned?

The answer, of course, is no one. Themselves. And from the responses that
both staff and Board have come out with today, they both clearly feel that
they have done no wrong either. There is not even the suggestion that they
hold a post-mortem or similar review.

We are not going to see the details of what happened. And it is in the
clear interests of the two groups who were found lacking in fairness not to
disclose that information (the staff has already demonstrated its
willingness to delete information it doesn't want people to see).

And so we have the final accountability process deciding unanimously on
something and nothing will change as a result of it.

Why? Because there is no mechanism right now for the community to do what
it is supposed to do and hold the ICANN Board and staff accountable.

What's the solution?

I would argue it is the ability for the existing community to hold hearings
in which they are able to compel information and witness testimony.

This requires no new structures - the groups and people already exist. It
is built around empowering the community. It does not give the community
any new powers beyond which ICANN already claims to offer (openness,
transparency). And it provides for real accountability: asking questions
and getting answers. It also costs far, far less.

I would also argue that a community group, rather than a new individual,
such as an inspector general, is the right way forward.

If you create another new role with one individual in, you basically
recreate the ombudsman role all over again. It adds costs. It means one
individual is forced into an impossible position (because, let's be honest,
we're not talking about an inspector general *with staff*).

And it opens the door to the exact same issues that have introduced
fundamental flaws to all the other accountability mechanisms: ICANN's
lawyers write the rules (and change them when they don't like them), the
person is reliant on ICANN money; ICANN's staff will overload the
individual with process and confidentiality claims.

But if you take the community - the people that follow this stuff every day
- and you empower them to ask questions and compel the provision of
information and witnesses. Well, then you have real accountability. And
accountability that makes ICANN itself stronger.

And before people slip into the habit of imagining the worst possible
assumption and using that strawman to knock down the idea:

* Such a community panel would not have the right to fire people (why would
it?). But it could certainly do things like say "we would encourage you to
consider your position" if it found someone particularly inept

* Such a community panel would not involve itself in internal things like
bullying or harassment or benefit. Again, why would it?

* Such a community panel would simply reflect systems of accountability
that exist all over the world when you are talking about a public good. It
is a select committee (UK) or a Congressional hearing (US). It is the
ability to provide review where it is needed; accountability in a way that
actually provides accountability, as opposed to the current approach of
long processes, huge bills and ignored outcomes.

Put another way: why doesn't the community already have such a review power?

I would argue strongly that this approach would be easy to introduce - a
few bylaws at most - be easy to argue in favor of, would fulfill the NTIA's
suggestions to a tee, make sense to the wider world, strengthen ICANN
overall, and come with very few downsides.

I hope you will seriously consider this approach at your meetings in Paris
over the next few days.


On Wed, Jul 15, 2015 at 11:00 PM, Dr Eberhard W Lisse <epilisse at gmail.com>

> Kieren,
> I call and have called this a need for structural reform. Which does not
> mean we have to go into individual cases (constructive dismissals) but need
> to make sure this does not happen.
> With regards to the security breaches, I did invite ICANN staff to
> present, from a purely technical perspective, about the incident before the
> previous Singapore meeting, in front of a very friendly audience at TechDay
> and they just declined, without giving any reasons.
> I really would like to read the unredacted version myself, bu the way. Not
> necessarily getting an electronic copy, but that would be best.
> el
> --
> Sent from Dr Lisse's iPhone 5s
> On Jul 16, 2015, at 03:45, Kieren McCarthy <kieren at kierenmccarthy.com>
> wrote:
> So it may be a US-UK disconnect but when I hear "personnel issues" I hear
> things like: sexual harassment or bullying or internal argument or benefits.
> I wouldn't advocate for the community reviewing any of those topics, nor
> do I think would anyone else. And I certainly wouldn't see a community-led
> process deciding it would review them either.
> If by "personnel issues" you mean holding staff to account for the jobs
> that they get paid they to do on behalf of the community, then we do not
> agree. I think they absolutely should be held to account and be required
> when the community feels it necessary to answer questions about how they
> carried their job out.
> To extend my Congressional analogy, recent hearing/inquiries that stick in
> my mind include:
> * The oversight hearing on the OPM data breach
> * The hearings on the secret service actions on the White House intruder
> These sorts of things.
> I can see for example it being very useful for ICANN staff to be quizzed
> publicly by the community on what happened with the recent security
> breaches.
> That strikes me as a much better system that the internet community
> relying on whatever ICANN staff decides to tell us through an announcement
> on a website.
> There are of course also Senate Investigations - in fact I think ICANN's
> top PR man used to be on a staffer on Senate inquiries - although I would
> imagine this kind of thing would be rare in the ICANN world.
> But this to me represents accountability: people being held accountable.
> Being required to answer questions on particular topics.
> Perhaps a better question would be to ask: why should the community *not*
> have the ability to hold people accountable for the actions taken in their
> name?
> Kieren
> On Wed, Jul 15, 2015 at 3:21 PM, James M. Bladel <jbladel at godaddy.com>
> wrote:
>>  I am also reviewing the unredacted report, and share the concerns of
>> many expressed here. That said, I also do not want to go down a path where
>> the Community inserts itself in to the Staff chain of authority, or starts
>> to micro-manage personnel issues.
>>  There are other ways to implement Staff Accountability, and I hope we
>> can have a comprehensive discussion of these in Paris.
>>  Safe travels to all who are en route. See you there.
>> Thank you,
>>  J.
>> ____________
>> James Bladel
>> GoDaddy
> [...]
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