auDA And Out. More Chaos and Confusion As auDA’s Chair Abandons Ship.

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In a hastily put together announcement, auDA have announced their Chair Chris Leptos resigned on 18 June. It’s an announcement that doesn’t do any more than check the required boxes thanking him for his service.

Sources have told Domain Pulse the sudden departure came about over a disagreement on governance issues with Leptos and CEO Cameron Boardman at loggerheads. The issue came to a head at a Board meeting earlier this week with Leptos abruptly leaving and then emailing a resignation shortly after.

It was only in April 2018 that a Special General Meeting was called to oust the CEO and 3 independent directors, including the Chair Leptos, but the resolution was defeated through some nifty manoeuvring by auDA, even though a majority of members voted for their ousting. Member dissatisfaction had been brewing for months following issues with consultation over direct, or second level, registrations, poor communication and transparency and poor governance.

As previously reported by Domain Pulse in numerous articles, there have been concerns expressed by many in the domain name community as to the direction and management of the Australian country code top level domain policy and regulatory body.

Most recently it came to light that in 2016/17 auDA began preparations to become the .au registry and spent as much as A$200,000 (about US$137,400 today) on consultant fees for its failed rebranding exercise to change the organisation’s name to auHQ. But when news came to light, including some negative publicity (which was one of the factors leading to a member revolt which forced resignation of the then and previous Chair Stuart Benjamin), auDA were forced to shelve their grand ambitions and put the registry out to tender.

There was also the referral to Victorian Police about 18 months ago of expense abuse by former staff and directors, a move that came without foundation, went nowhere, has been dropped by Victorian Police because there’s no evidence and has been used and abused as a reason to discredit these staff and directors. Not once have the alleged perpetrators been even questioned. Then in May 2019 it came to light auDA was seeking to avoid government oversight by getting rid of government observers at board meetings, a move that Leptos was part of.

Additionally, during Leptos’ tenure as Chair, there were around one thousand people from outside Australia who joined as members within a few weeks when only a handful of new members ever join every month, almost all of which are Australians due to restrictions on who can register .au domain names, to ensure constitution changes went through, and multiple staff and directors have been bullied and harassed into leaving the organisation. There was also the Australian government review that said the organisation was “no longer fit-for-purpose and reform is necessary” and A$4.247 million (US$2.92m) spent in the year to 30 June 2018 on consultants and advisers to further their objectives, which was up from $1.783 million (US$1.23m) in the previous financial year.

Once again, the version of auDA post-August 2016 has shown it’s unfit to govern Australia’s ccTLD. A new minister has arrived that oversees auDA, but auDA is trying to shirk its responsibilities even harder than before, being even more secret so the Australian government has no idea of what’s going on. It’s the government, and in particular the new minister Paul Fletcher, who can kickstart some serious reform, but with mates of the governing Liberal Party at the top of auDA, the chances remain unlikely.

In their announcement of Leptos’ departure, auDA have noted “the process to select a permanent replacement will commence immediately through the Nomination Committee. Until that process is complete, current Independent Director Suzanne Ewart will serve as Chair.”