Dirty Tricks and Smears Enter auDA Director’s Election

There’s currently an election underway for directors to the auDA Board. The last 2 years have been dogged by controversy for the .au policy and regulatory body. The Board unceremoniously dumped the CEO and the current CEO and board have overseen a turbulent time since current CEO Cameron Boardman commenced.

It’s believed 12 of 14 paid staff have either left or were booted since March 2016 when then CEO Chris Disspain departed and 5 directors have gone in 2017 alone, all outside the usual election cycle. And another 2 departed in the month that Boardman commenced, prior to the November AGM when elections were held.

Over the last 12 months or so in particular there have been issues with accountability and transparency such as the deletion of historical information from the website that was only (mostly) reinstated following a successful freedom of information request, a Member revolt that saw then Chair Stuart Benjamin resign ahead of a vote and a disregard of consultation processes that served the body well over the past 17 years or so. These consultation processes through Advisory Panels are to be “the principle mechanism for developing policy recommendations to the Board” according to the Constitution but were initially ignored when it came to current Request for Tender for the Registry Transformation Project.

And whispers have been doing the rounds for months of payments to employees that have been booted to keep them quiet.

The latest issue has seen an anonymous email sent to Domain Pulse smearing candidate for the auDA Board Ned O’Meara. The email sent under the name of “Anton Mackenzie” makes allegations of bankruptcy against O’Meara, something O’Meara hasn’t tried to hide. The cowardly email questions whether someone who has been bankrupt should be a director. O’Meara has addressed the issues on his Domainer news site saying he’s:
“got a fairly good idea who is behind the smear campaign, and all I say to them is this: You are gutless wonders. But then you know that already don’t you? If you want to have a go at me, show some ‘cojones’, and put your real identity to the comments.”

The email asked Domain Pulse to do a search on O’Meara. But instead Domain Pulse found 7 successful business people, an actor and a politician, who have been bankrupt – Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Milton Hershey, Burt Reynolds, H.J. Heinz and P.T. Barnum. Domain Pulse replied to the email and asked for more information, but unsurprisingly none was forthcoming.

O’Meara has been involved in domain names in Australia for some time as a domain name investor and registrar operator. Currently he’s semi-retired, writing on his Domainer news site and is standing for election to the auDA Board on a joint ticket with fellow Queenslander, Brisbane lawyer Nicole Murdoch.

The email with the allegations against O’Meara came 2 days after it became public that a Constitutional amendment [pdf] was to be put to Members at the upcoming Annual General Meeting for a Fit and Proper Persons Test. The amendment is proposed by demand class member Simon Johnson who told Domain Pulse he didn’t believe there should be criminals on the auDA Board or as Members. The amendment would see anyone with a criminal conviction, even as small as a teenage marijuana conviction, who has been bankrupt or one of a myriad of other matters being barred from being a Member or Director of auDA. Decisions would be made by the Board and not be made public, so those being investigated would never know the full reasonings behind the decision.

Currently a Member can only be expelled if they “have been guilty of conduct detrimental to the interests of auDA or to the objects of auDA” and the Member has the opportunity to put their case. For Directors, there is currently no specific rules in the Constitution that preclude someone from being a Director and the proposal is a new sub-clause.

Domain Pulse is not suggesting there is any link between the anonymous email and the proposed amendment and is not aware of who is behind the email. The 2017 auDA Annual General Meeting will be held on 27 November.