auDA Flying In Another Orbit, Like Pluto’s, In Denial About CEO/Director Conflict of Interest

auDA. What planet are you on? Monday night they released an astonishing statement defending the demand class board appointment of Dr. Michaella Richards in October 2016. The announcement does nothing to address probably the most significant concern about her appointment, that is the undeclared conflict of interest between herself and CEO Cameron Boardman.

In what universe does auDA, and in particular their CEO and Richards, think that having both worked together in the same department at the same time, at least in April 2015 is not something that should be declared when conflicts of interest are addressed?

It appears Richard and Boardman worked together for around 18 months according to the statement below. But auDA, its CEO and Richards have had 10 months to acknowledge this. And said nothing. It only came to light they’d worked together when it was discovered they were both on a delegate list for the AusMedTech2015 [pdf] conference that lists them both working for the Victorian government’s Innovation, Technology and Industry Programs department. Boardman was listed as the department’s Executive Director and Richards as Director. And still there is no disclosure to the board.

At neither the October 2016 board meeting, when Richards’ appointment was announced, nor the November meeting, did either Boardman or Richards deem it of consequence to report their conflict of interest. This is in contrast to Leonie Walsh, whose appointment as an Independent Director was announced at the October meeting, along with Sandra Hook’s, who made an extensive disclosure of her work.

And while auDA has addressed some concerns about the process appointing Richards, there are some who have previously voiced concerns, who have extensive experience with domain names, of which Richards has none, and managerial experience.

Richards’ position on the board comes up for election at the 2017 annual general meeting. It’s hard to see how she will get much in the way of member support. Her term may be short-lived.

The auDA statement, emailed Monday evening around 19:00, reads:

Statement by the auDA Board regarding Dr Michaella Richards, Non-Executive Director

The auDA Board is concerned about misinformation circulating about the process for appointing Non-Executive Director Dr Michaella Richards to the Board in 2016.

For the information of members, the facts are:

  • auDA appointed global recruitment firm Intersearch Partners Australia (‘Intersearch’) to undertake an independent search and recruitment process for the demand class director vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr. Miguel Wood.
  • This exercise was run concurrently with the search exercise for the Independent Director replacements, which were subsequently filled by Leonie Walsh and Sandra Hook respectively
  • This process was conducted in a rigorous and professional manner under the code of the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association
  • A detailed position description was developed identifying the skills which the auDA board believed were required on the board at that time, and was used as the basis of candidate assessment
  • 31 candidates were approached and interviewed, including a number of demand class members and other candidates as recommended by a number of current auDA directors
  • A final shortlist of 13 candidates were formally interviewed and referee checks were conducted
  • Intersearch recommended to the auDA board that Michaella Richards be appointed to fill the demand class director vacancy having been interviewed by several Directors.

Intersearch and the Board considered Dr Richards the outstanding candidate given:

  • her significant experience in innovation and technology policy
  • her understanding of government, public procurement, and risk management
  • her high level strategic capabilities

In addition, Dr Richards has undertaken a number of projects for government examining the relevance of ‘Brand Australia’ and the nation’s competitive advantage — including in the digital space. She is also a small business owner and entrepreneur. She owns and manages websites using both .com and .com.au domains.

Both Intersearch and the Board were fully aware of the fact that the CEO and Dr Richards had worked at the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources at the same time. This represented 18 months of Dr Richards’ seven years of service at the Department. This fact was considered immaterial to the appointment of Dr Richards.

In the period since her appointment, Dr Richards has been an exemplary contributor to auDA’s deliberations, and the Board supports her wholeheartedly.

While it’s possible auDA could offer more detail, no comment has been sought from auDA. auDA’s Director Communications, Marketing & Engagement has previously advised by email they “don’t usually reply to requests for blog stories – as is outlined on our website contact page.”

* Disclaimer: 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 AusRegistry proving online media monitoring services and contributing to the Behind the Dot magazine.

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