auDA Ignores Their Stakeholders With Echoes of Nominet Debacle a Decade Ago

It’s looming as a battle that has echoes of a few others. There’s the current battle between the powers that be at Cricket Australia and the cricketers. And there was the battle between members and management at Nominet a decade ago. And now there’s another battle that’s been going for a few months now. auDA is defying its members, ignoring their constitution and trashing transparency and accountability. Nominet lost the battle, Cricket Australia is so far losing the battle and auDA is digging in hoping it doesn’t follow.

auDA logoComing up for auDA is a member vote to sack the Chair Stuart Benjamin. The result will be known Monday after a Special General Meeting called by members. But no matter what happens, there are plenty of members that will remember how the auDA management and some board members have ridden roughshod over them.

auDA has continued to defy its members. It ignores their wishes for accountability and transparency, deleting historical documents such as meeting minutes from their website, which were only reinstated after a successful Freedom of Information request by former board member. One would have to question what auDA is trying to hide? Is it that auDA historically has been accountable and transparent to its members and stakeholders and the new CEO, Chair and a few board members have something to hide, either now or in the future?

Questions are asked of auDA, especially by fellow auDA member Ned O’Meara who also writes the domainer.com.au blog. But all he gets is auDA trying to obfuscate, and even lie, about what’s going on. Things are so dire at auDA that in the last xx months, 12 of the 14 staff members have either left or been sacked with suspicions staff leaving have been paid to keep quiet.

These sort of things have happened before at a country code top level domain (ccTLD) registry. A decade ago it was Nominet, the .uk ccTLD registry.

For Nominet, the UK government became so aggrieved by the risk to the stability of the .uk registry, as Kieren McCarthy wrote back in 2010, it inserted a number of clauses in the Digital Economy Bill giving the government “a number of reserve powers to take over the dot-uk registry if it thinks the situation warrants it.” As with Nominet back in 2007, members were aggrieved, particularly as their concerns weren’t being listened to. At the time McCarthy wrote of how the registry put a number of changes forward to a vote of members, members of its advisory board revolted and Nominet relented putting “forward only the two changes that have proven most popular with its members” at “its second extraordinary general meeting in a year.” During the Nominet debacle, “several members of Nominet’s Policy Advisory Board started raising concerns over some of the changes. One, Hazel Pegg, even set up a website to outline her concerns in which she urges Nominet members to vote ‘no’.”

The Pegg website was not unlike the grumpy.com.au site for auDA member dissatisfaction outlining 4 resolutions members wanted put to a vote. However auDA took “legal advice” that said the first 3 were not valid, only the fourth, to oust Chair Stuart Benjamin was allowed to proceed. The 3 resolutions blocked related to putting historical minutes, agendas and annual reports back online, a review and vote on by members of a Code of Conduct that was imposed without consultation and whether auDA was able to operate a wholesale registry.

So the auDA debacle of 2017 has echoes of the Nominet debacle of 2007, and even Cricket Australia. Ignore your stakeholders at your peril.