[CCWG-ACCT] Staff accountability

Kieren McCarthy kieren at kierenmccarthy.com
Fri Jul 17 20:11:04 UTC 2015

I'm at a real loss to understand why people are opposed to this idea,
especially since I typically agree with both James and David.

My best guess is that you see ICANN as more of a corporation, and I see it
more as a public interest organization.

This approach of external accountability by having informed people ask
questions directly on a specific topic to the people that make the
decisions is extremely common. In fact it is a bedrock of the democracies
that most of us live in.

And it has a long history of being effective, particularly where there is
no competition (ICANN is a natural monopoly) and when the organization in
question has a significant degree of power (ICANN gets to decide and that's

ICANN is hiring people - and paying them handsomely - to act in the
internet community's interests. I can't for the life of me understand why
obliging them to answer questions on specific topics that they are paid to
carry out in the interests of the internet community is a bad thing.

Plus, it happens all the time now. Staff are constantly attending different
sessions and answering questions. Its part of the job. The difference is:
if ICANN corporate doesn't *want* to tell you something then it doesn't,
and no one can make it either. That is the core accountability problem.

When we have a situation - as we have with this recent .Africa decision -
where both the Board and staff are found to have broken ICANN's bylaws -
what next? We simply say "don't do that again"?

That approach is why there have been no less than seven formal reviews in
the past 10 years. And despite all the processes and mechanisms put in
place, there remains a huge problem and gap.

There is no actual way to hold the people that make the decisions (the
Board) and implement the changes (the staff) accountable for what they do.

When everything goes smoothly it's not a problem; when it doesn't, ICANN
corporate has learned it can simply brush it under the carpet. But of
course every time that happens, there is someone in the community that
feels aggrieved.

And when that is done again and again, almost reflexively on ICANN's part,
it erodes trust. And that is why there is such little trust in ICANN
corporate. What am I proposing is a way to end that vicious circle but
doing what? Asking a few questions.


On Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 12:30 PM, James M. Bladel <jbladel at godaddy.com>

>   The more I consider the idea of holding staff "accountable" to "The
> Community," the more convinced I am that this would fast become an
> organizational nightmare.
>  Non-exec members of staff should be held accountable to their direct
> supervisor, and the chain of authority up to the CEO. It is not appropriate
> to insert the Community in that hierarchy, or to haul these folks in front
> of public inquiry committees. You have mentioned that the community would
> not make hire/fire decisions, so what is the point of this exercise, except
> to publicly shame the staff member, sully their professional reputation,
> and destroy their future career prospects?  No sane person would want to
> work for ICANN if it means subjecting themselves to several thousand
> self-appointed bosses, who may or may not have any relevant expertise to
> judge the employee's performance. The near-term outcome would be an exodus
> of anyone with talent.  And recruiting competent new hires would be
> difficult, expensive, or both.
>  Executive employees are a different story, but even in their case I
> believe that community influence should be indirect, such as including a
> community review as a component of their annual performance review, or
> notifying the CEO if the exec no longer has the trust and confidence of the
> community. If the CEO repeatedly fails to act on this, the he or she should
> be shown the door.
> Thank you,
>  J.
> ____________
> James Bladel
> GoDaddy
> On Jul 17, 2015, at 20:39, Kieren McCarthy <kieren at kierenmccarthy.com>
> wrote:
>   > some personnel issues should remain confidential,
>  I don't understand why people keep putting this strawman out there. No
> one is suggesting, or indeed has ever suggested, that personnel issues be
> included in a proper accountability mechanism.
>  > Why would a strengthened ombudsman not be a good fit for this role?
>  I'll give you three good reasons:
>  1. The Ombudsman was created in 2004. Despite numerous efforts to make
> the role effective, it has never happened. Why keep making the same mistake?
>  2. The Ombudsman is completely reliant on ICANN corporate. For access to
> people and documents, for resources, for salary, for technical support, for
> logistical support, for an office, for a room at ICANN meetings, for
> everything except his own body. And his role and what he can do is
> determined by ICANN's legal department in the rules that they wrote. The
> Ombudsman also signs a very strong confidentiality agreement with ICANN
> that effectively ties their hands on everything except illegal activity.
> See point 1.
>  3. An Ombudsman is a single person. And one completely reliant on ICANN.
> This provides an enormous degree of control by ICANN and very little
> freedom for the accountability role the Ombusdsman is supposed to fulfill.
> There are numerous people able to testify that ICANN corporate has no
> hesitation in applying significant pressure on individuals if they act in a
> way that it deemed a potential threat. All of those people are however
> under confidentiality agreements with ICANN.
>  The only way to bring actual accountability to ICANN is to have people
> that are not dependent on ICANN and are not muzzled by confidentiality
> agreements asking the questions.
>  And those people are... the 2,000 people that turn up to ICANN meetings.
> The community.
>  Kieren
> On Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 10:06 PM, David Cake <dave at difference.com.au>
> wrote:
>> Eberhard has a point.
>>  There are legitimate reasons for staff to want to not answer some
>> questions - some personnel issues should remain confidential, some security
>> issues should have disclosure delayed until the problem has been fixed or
>> mitigated, etc.
>> The Ombudsman should have access to any internal document, and the
>> discretion and training to decide what is reasonable to release. Why would
>> a strengthened ombudsman not be a good fit for this role?
>>  Regards
>> David
>>  (my first post to CCWG Accountability - hi everybody)
>>    On 16 Jul 2015, at 2:03 pm, Dr Eberhard W Lisse <epilisse at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>    Cool, another Ombudsman.
>>  el
>> --
>> Sent from Dr Lisse's iPhone 5s
>> On Jul 16, 2015, at 04:05, Phil Corwin <psc at vlaw-dc.com> wrote:
>>   How about an independent inspector general?
>> [...]
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