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

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.”

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