2019-07-20 Board meeting
Special board meeting 20 July 2019.
As previously announced, we will have a special board meeting to review the communication abuse of 17 June 2019 by Romaine.
Several board members indicated this was a severe incident, having an impact on the proper functioning of Wikimedia Belgium.
The Board would like to clarify the situation, and evaluate potential actions.
Venue: Saturday 20 July 2019 at 14:00 Troonstraat 51
- Present the case
- Hear Romaine
- Review the possible actions
- Review the risks
- Vote for the decision (multiple possibilities)
- Take further actions depending on the voting
- Scoping of the problem
- Preparation of the board meeting
- Board member risk and decision matrix, see Board membership decision tree
- Please fill in the attached sheet with a risk factor or 0 (low) - 5 (high) – see orange columns
- Return the sheet to the Chair
- Confirm your presence to the special board meeting
Present: AnneJea, Geert, Lionel, Mike, Romaine (full board)
Main subject: Review the communication abuse of Romaine, and the consequences the Board sees as appropriate.
Subsequent action: review the communications strategy for WMBE.
We do not discuss here the specific T&S case as such, but we are required to give some context.
What has happened, why we are here for this special board meeting?
Present the case
Trying to reconstruct what has happened.
T&S sanctions on Romaine
Romaine has a global event ban from December 2018 till December 2020. This has a huge personal impact for Romaine, on the Board, on the functioning of WMBE, our projects, and on the community.
This means that he cannot attend any event paid by the WMF, directly, or indirectly via WMF Grants.
Romaine is negatively affected as a consequence of all what happened due to the T&S handling of the case: he was not heard, he did not get a fair “trial”, the involved Chapters were not heard nor consulted. The global event ban decision did not keep into account the specific situation of the Chapter, there was no appeal procedure, there was no ombudsman. Romaine's illness, hard-hearing, and autism was never taken into account.
Geert, Frans, and Sandra (Chair and Director of Wikimedia Nederland) negotiated during 6 months with the T&S team trying to relax the national ban. We were convinced that the global ban was too strong for national WMBE/WMNL activities. We arrived at a principal agreement beginning of June. But this was not implementable because Romaine disagreed, as it did not guarantee for a safe personal environment, and it would implicitly imply a recognition of guilt.
Message after the GA from Romaine on the mailing list
Romaine published the 17th of June 2019 an unprofessional and non-authorized announcement on the global mailing list, resulting in communication abuse, negatively impacting Wikimedia Belgium, and the Wikimedia community in general.
There was a strong indication that he badly communicated about his position, mixing up his function, his person, his T&S action, his feelings, and his interpretation of the facts, hereby confusing the rest of the Wikimedia world; so as to invoke even more uncertainty amongst the community.
It was never agreed (nor discussed) that Romaine would send out this “Monday letter” on the global mailinglist. The board would have never agreed that this message would go out in that form/content. It is never a good idea to mix up organizational and personal viewpoints, facts and feelings, personal conflicts with business decisions, (incomplete, personal) meeting notes together with personal messages.
Communication should be done by the right person/responsible, with the right content, format, channel, target public, and timing. This was not the case; with further confusion, misunderstanding, further guesswork, and escalation as a result.
Consequences: Unagreed and unintended chapter communication. The community was confused about the function and the role of the sender, and the context of the communication. Some “closed allegations” were again reactivated. We all need to cleanup the mess now.
The other board members found the action by Romaine not OK. They indicated that a severe error has occurred, and want to review the facts and decide on the consequences.
It is not admissible that a board member, on his own initiative:
- Publishes preliminary, unofficial, and incomplete minutes of meeting
- Mixes up personal or private matters, his board member function, his disputes, bans, and his role in the movement with public matters
- Gives the impression that a private communication is approved by the Board, or the General Assembly
- Communicate Board decisions, or General assembly proposals, as a private message
The above events, and consequences, makes the Board feel uncomfortable regarding Romaine's action.
The other Board members requested the WMBE Chair to initiate an evaluation process as to what consequences the Board would require in this breach of confidence.
Answer on mailing list and wp.en
Memo from Geert 2 July 2019 about Communication abuse
Quote: ”As a chapter we should have attention for the organization, the movement, the internal risks, the external risks, but also handling/solving personal conflicts, or personal issues. We should defend the weak but also protect the organisation and the movement.”
What is the answer/position of Romaine?
Romaine explained how the communication came into existence. He was overwhelmed by his emotions that resulted from the situation. He excused himself for the communication, and states that he would not have sent this communication in his current mind, and would never again send a similar communication.
Romaine announced in an earlier e-mail that he will indefinitely stop all activities that are directly linked to activities covered by a grant from the Foundation. It makes the functioning of Romaine within the Board difficult.
Remarks from the board members
- Is the above sufficient to explain the problem to people external to the Board? If there would be more questions, they can be asked to the Chair of WMBE.
- The board feels unsure with further official communication from Romaine
- Outside communication should be done by the Chair, or explicitly state “on behalf of the Board”
- How does Romaine see his future collaboration with WMBE? Answer: focus on online stuff.
Review the possible actions
Review the risks
As we do not arrive to a conclusion today, we stop the meeting to give Romaine extra time to reconsider the arguments presented by the other board members. Before end of July 2019 another board meeting will be organised with all board members present to finalize the discussion, and come to a decision.
We would like that Romaine takes a personal decision, which is the best for all involved parties, including Romaine himself. We would like to prevent that we need to organise an Extraordinary General Assembly. The risk is too high for all parties involved.
- Every board member to write out an if-then-else and consequences/risks for the decision(s) they think more appropriate.
- The WMBE board recognizes the added value of Romaine. Romaine to evaluate how he can best function in the organisation/community.
- Next Board meeting to be organised 30 July 2019.
Take further actions depending on the voting
As decided above:
- Review and decide upon the communications strategy for WMBE (next Board meeting)
- Register for a “Bestuurdersverzekering”
- Make a proposal for the Wikimania Chairs meeting
Proposal for the Wikimania Affiliates chair meeting
WMBE has immediately complained in December 2018 against the T&S staff that the Chapters WMBE/WMNL were never informed/involved/heard in Romaine's case, and that the Friendly space policy (like other Office actions) are missing an appeal procedure, that the right to be heard, an honest defense, and an appeal should always exist. We have made T&S aware that they are being destroying a young Chapter by the way they conduct single-sided, unbalanced, and insufficiently elaborated, Office actions.
It is becoming more and more clear that the Friendly space policy, and T&S procedures are not well integrated, not agreed, not understood, and not well interpreted in the same way, by all stakeholders of Wikimedia movement.
Our proposal to the Affiliates meeting, and to the Foundation, related to missing steps in the Friendly Space policy, and the T&S and sAPG process are specifically: perpetrator hearing, impartial sanctions committee, appeal procedure. There have been a lot of discussions recently on wikimedia-l and on the en.wp related to the behavior (including possibly abuse of power?) and the processes applied by the T&S team.
All Foundation bans:-
- Global ban: is not appealable, not negotiable and not reversible
- Temporary global ban: not appealable, its duration is final and non negotiable
- Partial ban: not appealable, its duration is final and non negotiable
- Event ban: in-person events funded by Foundation resources, local /global
are missing the following: alleged offenders should be guaranteed being heard, have the possibility of self-defense, and an appeal procedure. They should be innocent until proven guilty.
This will be about the general handling of cases, and not specifically related to Romaine's case.
See m:Request for WMF Internal audits and appeal procedures for more details.
End of the meeting
Meeting finished shortly after 18:10