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auDA In More Turmoil: Members Threatened With Court Action Over SGM and Another Director Resigns

The turmoil at auDA continues. This week the Australian government released a scathing review into the .au policy and regulatory body with a number of recommendations that, unless they’re all acted upon will see auDA replaced. And it’s unlikely to get member approval to implement the required recommendations. Then Thursday another demand class member resigned, leaving the remaining one of 4 demand members in a strong and unenviable position given the constant turmoil the organisation is in.

Thursday’s resignation saw Nicole Murdoch, elected by Demand class (that is, by those that register domain names) resign. Officially Murdoch resigned due to the workloads of her day job at lawyers Bennett Philp where she is a Director in the Intellectual Property team. But sources have told Domain Pulse that this is only partly true and Murdoch lost faith in auDA and therefore couldn’t serve the Board in good faith.

Murdoch’s resignation saw the usual 4 Directors from Demand class (there are 11 in total, with 3 Independent and 3 Supply Class) being reduced to one – Tim Connell. It was little more than 2 weeks ago that Ned O’Meara walked out the door citing health reasons. As part of the recruitment process already in place, auDA is claiming they have “received 29 applications from candidates with exceptional credentials for the advertised vacancies.” However sources, not auDA Directors to be clear, have told Domain Pulse that auDA already had 2 candidates for the Board in mind prior to Murdoch’s resignation. The names of those earmarked have been told to Domain Pulse, so we shall see if the claims were accurate when new Directors are announced.

While Connell remains the only Director elected by or from the Demand class Members he holds a lot of power. Any decision to be approved by the Board requires “at least one Director elected by each of the Membership Classes is present.” For now, if Connell is not present, a vote cannot take place, and that includes a vote to approve new Directors. If he resigns before any new Directors are appointed it’s likely the government would be forced to step in to administer the organisation.

The turmoil continues as auDA is now threatening court action to delay the Special General Meeting that Members have called to vote on a no-confidence motion in the current CEO Cameron Boardman and the ousting of the 3 Independent Directors including the current Chair Chris Leptos.

In an email to those Members that signed the petition Friday night, auDA say they’re seeking to delay the “SGM to the same day as auDA's 2018 AGM. If the Board does not receive sufficient agreement from members to an extension of time to call and hold the SGM by 4.00pm Monday 23 April 2018, the Board intends to apply for a court order pursuant to section 1322(4) of the Corporations Act extending the time for calling the requested SGM.” The AGM is usually held in late October or early November but auDA is proposing to hold this year’s in September. The email even has serious privacy implications with all names and email addresses of those visible.

auDA gives 2 reasons for the delay – to start dealing with the scathing review from the Australian government and the cost in holding an SGM. But in reality auDA is trying to buy time in the hope that Member anger has subsided enough so they don’t come at the Australian country code top level domain administrator with baseball bats.

Members Domain Pulse have spoken to are outraged that auDA is seeking to delay the meeting. One told Domain Pulse “Bring the fight on. Members are outraged that auDA management is seeking to override their rights as per the Corporations Act.”

Another said “auDA are up against the ropes, so let’s see if members take the bait and give them the chance to catch their breath or step in with a coup de grâce blow.”

* Disclosure: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a supplier to auDA for 14 years and is now a supplier to Neustar providing online media monitoring services.