auDA calls cops on former directors

Victoria Police contacted regarding "a number of practices" by domain registry's former leadership, auDA chair says

The board of .au domain administrator auDA has written to members to say it has contacted Victoria Police regarding "a number of practices of several former auDA directors".

In an email message sent to the organisation's members and stakeholders yesterday, independent chair Chris Leptos said he was briefed on the undisclosed 'practices' during his first week in the role back in November.

"Your Board concluded that those practices warranted referral to the Victoria Police," Leptos wrote. "As you would appreciate, it is not appropriate at this stage to provide further details regarding this matter."

The communication has received a mixed reaction from a number of auDA's former directors.

Josh Rowe, CEO of REALas.com and an auDA director from 2001 to 2015 said Leptos had "pointed the big innuendo stick" at all of the organisation's 48 past directors.

"The mind boggles as to why auDA would put such a statement in that email," he told Computerworld.

Writing on LinkedIn, Marty Drill, CEO of Melbourne digital agency Get Started, who served as a director for six years from 2006, said: "Personal comments about former directors are not warranted and are unfair... Focus on policy not people. If Chris [Leptos] has genuinely found something that he feels strongly enough about to refer to the police, then he has an obligation to do so."

Nevertheless, Drill added, the action "seems like an extreme measure".

Chief technology officer of Melbourne IT Group Brett Fenton, an auDA director from 2005 to 2007, wrote: "auDA is damned if they do, damned if they don't...as an ex-director, I'm okay with the approach and message as delivered."

The revelation came as part of Leptos' communication about his first 150 days as chair. Leptos – a non-executive director at Flagstaff Partners and PPB Advisory – took over the auDA chair role following the resignation of Stuart Benjamin. Benjamin quit just days before a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

The disclosure comes at a tumultuous time for the members organisation. On the weekend a group of disgruntled members called for a mutiny, petitioning members to vote for a special general meeting for the opportunity to oust four member of auDA's leadership.

Rowe along with Paul Szyndler and Jim Stewart appealed to members to carry a vote of no confidence in auDA CEO Cameron Boardman, and for the removal of three directors: Leptos, Sandra Hook and Suzanne Ewart.

The rebel group says it has a number of grievances with the way the organisation is run, covering governance, transparency and the handling of a major proposed shake-up which would allow direct registration of .au domains (without the need of .com before it).

One of their complaints – detailed on petition website grumpier.com.au – relates to a "whispering campaign" at the organisation, which the trio says aims to "discredit some past staff and management".

"There are certainly lots of rumours floating around about PPB forensic reports and possible financial irregularities," Rowe, Szyndler and Stewart write. "If these have any substance, these should be disclosed to members and the parties concerned. If this doesn’t happen soon, that is totally unfair, as it creates undue stress and reputational damage. What other organisation would carry on like this?"

On Tuesday, the trio said they had more than double the required signatures – 5 per cent of auDA’s 319 members – for a general meeting to be held, at which members can resolve to mount the mutiny.

In October last year the Department of Communications and the Arts announced a review of the management of the .au domain “to ensure its fit for purpose in Australia’s modern digital landscape”.

“The framework that governs the .au domain was last reviewed 16 years ago and since that time the digital landscape has changed significantly. The review will examine whether Australia’s top-level domain, .au, is being managed consistent with Government and community expectations,” the review’s terms of reference states.

The review is expected to be finalised in coming months.

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Tags leadershipdomainpoliceauDAVictoria Policelawchairmanadministratormutiny

More about auDAAustraliaDepartment of CommunicationsFentonGet StartedMelbourne ITPPB

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