Allegations of a conflict against ICANN board members Mike Silber and Chris Disspain by DotConnectAfrica, one of two applicants for the .africa generic Top Level Domain, has been dismissed by the ICANN Ombudsman.
The allegations have led to a considerable amount of discussion on blogs, Twitter and other sites and in comments on the ICANN website in relation to the new .africa gTLDs applications. Regrettably, the Ombudsman notes much of the discussion has been intemperate.
The conflict of interest relates to a policy adopted by the ICANN board in December 2011 that requires board members and other key ICANN employees to not take advantage of their position within the organisation.
During the investigation the Ombudsman investigated whether there were any decisions made during the New gTLD Program Committee and ICANN board meetings that affected the complainant and the .africa applications.
The Ombudsman says:
it is clearly apparent when the records are examined, that the 2 board members have not participated in any decision-making about .africa, and indeed there has been little discussion other than at a higher level about the program in general. It is in my view premature to consider whether there can even be apparent bias, because it is too remote to link the suggested connections with the very generic discussions which have taken place, and in addition, where the actual decisions about the applications are still some distance from being made.
Dismissing the complaint the Ombudsman says he considers:
that no disqualifying conflict of interest, or indeed any conflict of interest at all, is present in the actions of both Chris Disspain and Mike Silber. It is likely this complaint has led to increased awareness of the possibilities of conflict of interest, which the Board will carefully consider in terms of the existing policy about conflict, when the issue arises.