Does Chaos Reign At auDA?

Seasoned observers of auDA (Australia’s Domain Regulator) are aware of the turmoil that has racked this not for profit organisation over the past 4 years (since the changing of the guard in 2015 / 2016).

For those not in the know, there is a quick synopsis at the base of this article.

Like many people, I had hoped things would improve. There have been some positives – in particular, the creation of a Nominating Committee which will select appropriate candidates for election to the new Board is an excellent improvement. Hope springs eternal!

But In The Interim It Gets Worse

Here are three more recent events (including two major resignations) that need proper explanation – and not “spin”.

  • According to this brief announcement on 18th June 2019, the Chair (Chris Leptos) who was brought in to effect all the recent changes suddenly resigned in the middle of the Board Meeting on that same day. Because the Minutes don’t explain why, you have to read between the lines to try and understand. And then also talk to inside sources (it’s a fact of life that leaks happen in disgruntled organisations.)
  • According to this more effusive report on 30th July 2019, the auDA Board “reluctantly” accepted the resignation of auDA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Cameron Boardman. Inside sources say he actually left a week earlier whilst a “settlement” was hammered out.
  • Last week, on 21st August, the auDA Board suddenly backtracked on two important Board decisions. The timing (and implementation) of direct registrations are now in doubt; and the new improved Licensing Rules which had been welcomed by most were repealed. Registrars and registrants alike shook their heads in amazement at this flip-flop.

Questions For The auDA Interim Chair

What issue or issues made Chris Leptos leave the meeting and then resign by email later that day? Did it have anything to do with the CEO Cameron Boardman? Did Mr Leptos receive a payout?

Did Cameron Boardman’s resignation stem from issues arising out of the Chair’s sudden resignation? Was his contract up for renewal? Did he receive a “golden handshake”, and if so, why; and how much?

Why were the decisions on direct registrations and the amended licensing rules announced as if they were a fait accompli?

Putting The Above Into Perspective

Over the weekend, I read a comment on an online forum made by a small businessman who owns a few domains. He’s not political; nor is he a “grumpy”. Just a nice guy who is fed up. This is what he said:

I’m growing a little bit fed up with how things have gone the last few years.. Reminds me of the Brexit issue.. uncertainty, low confidence & no commitment to a plan!

Let’s hope auDA and DoCA hear this, because he is not alone in thinking that.

Here’s That Synopsis

Please believe me when I tell you this is a very abbreviated four years!

Boardroom coup ousted an admired Chair; long-standing CEO got the boot; a “mate” then got the job of CEO; two respected Independent Directors got punted; massive staff “retrenchments” followed; some “mates” then appointed; a couple of new non-mate appointments were quickly terminated (including respected Company Secretary); whistle-blower report virtually ignored; transparency and accountability virtually disappeared, Members called a Special General Meeting (Chair fell on his sword before meeting); squillions of dollars spent on consultants, investigations and ex gratia payouts; a load of “playing the man and not the ball” e.g. complaint made to Vic Police over alleged financial wrongdoings of some of previous regime; Boardroom infighting with some Directors resigning; a second SGM where the Corporations Act was ignored by auDA; a Government review announced; a plot to remove all Members by stacking membership with overseas ring-ins succeeded; the long-standing respected Registry operator was replaced etc …

Ned O’Meara – 26th August 2019

21 thoughts on “Does Chaos Reign At auDA?

  • Tim
    August 26, 2019 at 10:07 am
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    How many years to go till we can tell our real stories ned?

    Tim

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  • Scott.L
    August 26, 2019 at 10:38 am
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    The establishment of a nominations committee certainly brings auDA into the modern day, however, I fear the lack of transparency concerning their appointment may persuade those with an agenda to rig a perpetual class structure of a particular industry self-interest into it. For example; the Board appoints the Nominations Committee members who in turn nominate the candidate for election to the board. I believe a mechanism of oversight is required to ensure the Nomination committee appointments are appropriately approved by either members or a third party with acceptable integrity. Otherwise, auDA will be captured by unpredictable storms, which have already tossed this little boat side to side upon treacherous seas.

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    • tim
      August 26, 2019 at 11:50 am
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      that has always been my concern, its like you picking your mum to pick the class captain !
      tim

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      • Neddy
        August 26, 2019 at 12:31 pm
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        @Tim – is that why you were never chosen? 😀

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    • Neddy
      August 26, 2019 at 12:30 pm
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      Scott, good points that you raise about oversight particularly given past conduct and agendas of certain persons (thankfully now gone).

      But it is almost a Catch-22 situation – imo, we were lucky to get what we’ve got. My take is that anything is better than what we’ve had in the past, and we have to start somewhere. Whilst I don’t know everyone appointed to the NomCom, I do know a few of them, and I believe they are decent, honourable people that will act with integrity.

      Let’s perhaps reserve judgment until we see what the new Board looks like?

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  • Avatar
    August 26, 2019 at 11:59 am
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    How many of the current auDA Nominations Committee / Governing Members were “helped” onto it by the ex auDA CEO Boardman and ex auDA Chair Leptos? I think it is easy to see the lists and motivations match up.

    How much influence did / do the old auDA CEO and old auDA Chair still have on this Nominations Committee / Governing Members?

    Why do we need to research to see some of the same CMWG names again on the auDA Nominations Committee / Governing auDA now?

    https://www.auda.org.au/news/announcing-the-consultation-model-working-group/

    Where is the latest FULL latest up to date list of people now on this auDA Nominations Committee; Governing Members, any other organisations they are from together…?

    https://www.auda.org.au/news/auda-nomination-committee-appointed/
    https://www.auda.org.au/news/from-the-auda-chair-nomination-committee-call-for-expressions-of-interest/

    Interesting who is really influencing things behind the scenes of auDA, the Nom Com / Governing members and why?

    https://auda.net.au/assets/CMWG/ThinkPlace-Conversation-Tracker-auDA-CMWG-Workshop-6-August-2018-v2.0-compressed.pdf

    http://theluckygeneral.biz/tag/anne-hurley/
    http://theluckygeneral.biz/2017/09/15/baseless-attacks-by-nbn-co-cronies-see-resignations-internet-australia/#more-127
    https://independentaustralia.net/business/business-display/internet-australia-needs-board-renewal-term-limits-says-departing-executive-director,10742

    Are there people who remain on the Nominations Commitee / Governing commitee who still hold a serious grudge against domain Name investors, Monetisation, domain name resale, auDA 1.0 staff and board etc?

    How many of the current auDA Nomination Committee voted to accept or turn a blind eye to the serious auDA and supply stacking of voting membership in 2018 and approved the removal of legitimate real auDA members putting into place a farce of a rigged new auDA Constitution?

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  • Scott.L
    August 26, 2019 at 3:26 pm
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    Why did auDA Directors change their minds and flip on their initial decision to free the market from old restrictive policies?

    Accordingly, the same auDA Board of Directors also decided against the extreme restrictive policies proposed by the Policy Review Panel, after which, gave the registration market a feeling of positivism.

    However, in changing their minds on a whim from the Dept. CommsAU, these Directors sent a confusing message to the registration market. What new information did the Directors receive that changed their minds, if any at all? Directors must make informed decisions, they are to be impartial and prudent in their duty, not to improperly use information obtained through their position or to gain an advantage for themselves or someone else, or to cause detriment to the company.

    • to act in good faith
    • to act in the best interests of the company
    • to avoid conflicts between the interests of the company and the director’s interests
    • to act honestly
    • to exercise care and diligence

    auDA was not fit for purpose when it had a Chairman and CEO, so who in their right mind believes it is fit for purpose, without those critical roles?

    The role of the Administrator, as I understand it, was about regulation through consistency of policy, stability, technical competency, a value driven organisation with the behavior to match its promises and decisions. Today, all I see is botched reality of that ideal, ruined by cunning, secret, spiders, leaving auDA without any real membership, solidarity, or vision.

    The current Directors cannot be allowed to make any more decisions until a newly constituted board is appointed, including a new Chair and CEO.

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  • tim
    August 26, 2019 at 6:17 pm
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    Erhan Karabardak, Joe Manariti and Grant Wiltshire have been on the board too long, the ridiculous decision to allow directors to “start again” for their terms ( so to speak) was voted by them !!!!

    the argument that there is a knowledge loss in this case is rubbish and if the others can’t pick up the slack then the nomcom need to address that as well.

    we need a clean sheet working for the industry as a whole.

    tim

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  • Avatar
    August 26, 2019 at 6:52 pm
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    A Chair of a multi million dollar organisation walks out of a board meeting and resigns by email? Surely a better explanation to stakeholders is warranted? A fish rots from the head down.

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  • Avatar
    August 26, 2019 at 8:16 pm
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    G’day Mr O’Meara – long time no see!

    You’ve done an amazing job of distilling 4 years of dysfunction into a 3 minute read.

    For what it is worth, I believe that auDA is making very slow progress in the right direction.

    The good:
    Leptos and Boardman brought in a culture of aggressive management and a scorched-earth approach that were completely ill-suited to the .au space. And now they are gone.

    The Board has pulled back on direct registrations. The process is a forced, fraught and doomed-to-failure folly. That it was even considered is a black mark on .au.

    There is a Nom Com in place that will inevitably be compared with the long-standing model at ICANN. Having a precedent is a good thing. There are also a number of people involved that have sharp policy and governance minds, that deserve respect and who know the history of .au

    The bad:
    The Board simply cannot make any decisions without a CEO and Chair. Many (Karabardak, Manariti, Deck) were complicit in bringing in the head kickers and completely overturning auDA policy and operations and must go. That they have not already done so en masse is insulting to members.

    Speaking of which: no effort has been made to look at the membership misdeeds of the last three years. The revised membership structure must be audited and cleaned up, and we all know why.

    The direct reg announcement is a stutter that looks bad and also delays positive policy streamlining.

    So yes, I’m sitting on the fence. But, like Ned, I think we have to look forward with a positive attitude. Once again, auDA needs rejuvenation at Board, Exec and staff level. I just hope enough corporate memory remains for the organisation to even know what “getting back on track” looks like.

    Paul

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    • Avatar
      August 28, 2019 at 3:53 am
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      It is happening all over again Paul. I’ve heard that auDA staff are being interviewed next week by a “culture advisor” brought in by the board and there are rumour’s that the board already have a list of “nondesirable” staff that are slated to be terminated.

      Yes, everything old is new again.

      • Avatar
        September 1, 2019 at 8:53 pm
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        It is very disappointing to hear that history is repeating itself.

        Staff do not need to be managed out. It is the Board that is the problem.
        THEY can go back to full time jobs after the have had their jollies at auDA. In the meantime, people lose careers and livelihoods.

        Although I did not work with many current staff, I feel for them. Trust me, keeping your head below the parapet will not spare you from being targeted.
        Appalling.

  • Neddy
    August 27, 2019 at 5:41 am
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    As to be expected from you Paul, a very succinct and well-crafted opinion. Thank you for taking the time.

    Knowing you, and what you have endured, I hope that one day the real story of the past 4 years emerges. Sort of like a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” that South Africa went through after the apartheid regime. What wonderful leadership from Mandela.

    For those paid snipers on the sidelines, the strategy of trying to classify all dissenting voices and opinions as “Grumpies” may have worked for a while, but ultimately it will fail. Many good people were (and still are) simply trying to alert others of carnage cleverly disguised as progress.

    Ned

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  • Avatar
    August 27, 2019 at 8:33 am
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    Ned

    It’s great to have you back on the frontline to keep the bastards honest as the saying goes.

    As we all know auDA has only been ever been interested in lining their own pockets manipulating the rules to suit themselves as well as keeping their mates employed. It would be great to eventually be told what you and Tim actually do know what has really been going on in the boardroom, the dirty tricks that have been used to keep the people that really have the domain industries best interests at heart away from the frontline.

    Keep up the good work.

    Cheers

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    • Neddy
      August 28, 2019 at 5:44 am
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      Thanks Glady. You’ve been in the trenches a long time, and so have seen and experienced the best and worst of auDA (probably not much of the former; plenty of the latter!).

      Ned

  • Avatar
    August 27, 2019 at 10:13 am
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    It is of very serious concern that so many people from the auDA influenced / controlled CMWG made their way onto the highly paid auDA General Advisory Standing Committee.

    Did Cameron Boardman and Chris Leptos invite them and stack them onto it with the hope of perhaps gaining inside info and influence from some of them? In my opinion, I think they possibly did. If true, what a good scheme to perhaps know everything that was going on, and to possibly control it. I am not suggesting that any of the following people would act improperly – I’m just referring to why they in particular were appointed.

    Madeleine Roberts EX CMWG https://www.linkedin.com/in/madeleineroberts/
    Nikki Scholes EX CMWG http://www.Netfleet.com.au
    Peter Tonoli (Chair) EX CMWG https://www.linkedin.com/in/peter-tonoli-b197812/
    Ian Halson EX CMWG https://www.linkedin.com/in/ianhalson/
    Anne Hurley EX CMWG https://www.linkedin.com/in/annehurley1/
    P R Khangure EX CMWG IINET https://blog.iinet.net.au/author/prk/
    Keith Besgrove EX CMWG https://www.linkedin.com/in/keith-besgrove-a449a74/?originalSubdomain=au

    A very qualified and highly respected board member of some other major organisations (also working with Government in an investigative role in a major non auDA matter) who was also on the CWMG applied to be on the GASC and was refused by Boardman and Leptos because in 2018 they spoke up at CMWG meetings and they asked questions about the 2018 foreign supply member stacking orchestrated by Leptos and Boardman, about the proposed constitution changes and about the cancellation of all members.

    It seems to me some of the CMWG members who had toed the auDA Management line got onto this and reap the $1500 + Super + Expenses pay off per meeting..

    https://www.auda.org.au/about-auda/our-org/gasc/
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwizkJfV25_kAhXNfCsKHbvsD3EQFjAGegQIBBAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.aunic.com.au%2Fassets%2Fpublic-comment%2FDoCA-feedback-Attachment-D-auDA-proposed-Nomination-Committee-Charter-%2B-auDA-response-11Oct2018.pdf&usg=AOvVaw1Y23YytYqjlRmPOG5FsV7r

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    • Avatar
      August 27, 2019 at 4:00 pm
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      Sean you should get your facts correct.
      The GASC do not get paid a cent.

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      • Neddy
        August 28, 2019 at 9:56 am
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        @Sean – I know you mean well, but for credibility’s sake, please make sure you get your wording and facts right before posting.

        Ned

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    • Avatar
      September 10, 2019 at 7:51 am
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      Just to contribute a fact, to counter the confected outrage posted above: None of the GASC members are being ‘paid off’, in fact, GASC members don’t get a cent from auDA, as being on the GASC is purely a voluntary position.

      • Neddy
        September 10, 2019 at 8:31 am
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        Yes Peter, you are correct about GASC membership being a voluntary position, and Sean was corrected by a couple of us on here.

  • Avatar
    August 27, 2019 at 12:08 pm
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    Hi Ned, so glad you’re back. You were sorely missed.

    So many questions have been raised, but the answers lie hidden behind dark curtains. Hopefully the truth will come to light soon.

    It’s clear I’m not alone in feeling frustrated and exhausted from the last few years’ of auDA Leadership, that now appears to be looking quite fruitless.

    Here are some more questions…

    1) Was The PRP a total waste of time and money?

    2) Are the new Proposed Policy Changes, that were said to be coming into effect in October, even going to happen now?

    3) Is Direct .AU Registration, that was said to be coming into existence in April, ever going to happen now?

    4) What does it take to be CEO of an organisation, attempt to ram a bunch of EXTREME and negative changes down invested-member’s throats, only to see a backlash put a stop to said changes, and then leave before the job’s done?

    Actually. Best not to answer Question 4.

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