Part 2: My complaint to Nominet about AGM 2014 Elections

Belfast, NI          Thursday, 22 May 2014          9.10am BST

 Well, it looks like my complaint (mentioned in did not really go anywhere. As such, and before any election results are announced (and thus regardless of whether I am elected or not), I have emailed Chair Rennie Fritchie with my concerns.

At the close of the AGM, I approached Chair Fritchie who was more than open with the idea of me raising my concerns about the recent election. For transparency, I am including my email sent to her at 9am this morning, below:

Hi Rennie

Thank you for chairing the Nominet AGM yesterday and for your openness to discuss concerns that members (including myself) have about Nominet from the governance and management side of things.

As mentioned yesterday after the close of the AGM, regardless of what the results of the Board elections may be (whether I am elected in or not), I do wish to discuss with you serious concerns I have about the election process this year.

Nominet is excellent when it comes to operational matters – the way the whole domain registration/renewal process works (including the billing etc). There are no complaints about this. The staff, in general, are excellent.

However what seems to be lacking is the openness and transparency – this lack in the elections which closed yesterday, I would like to raise my serious concerns about and I do believe the whole Board should have taken this seriously.

Before I go into the concerns/complaints, please let me say that this is only to do with openness and transparency and due election process. This is not at all to do with my chances of being elected or otherwise.

Briefly, the following made me feel extremely uncomfortable with the election this year.

1) Neither Nick Wenban-Smith, nor the Election Committee, seeing anything wrong with Oliver Hope’s omission of a conflict of interest. A board member said to me before the AGM (in relation to this), “you just made yourself look silly”.

2) Neither Nominet, nor Popularis wanting to take on board the concerns or the complaint I had raised.

3) Lack of urgency, in a time limited election, from both Nick Wenban-Smith and the Election Committee

4) Selective answering of questions from both Nick Wenban-Smith and the Election Committee.

Taking the above points in further detail:

1) Oliver Hope’s conflict of interest.

This was nothing to do with how big or small the conflict is.. but one about openness and transparency.. to allow the voter to make a judgment based on the information at hand. If Oscar O’Connor’s statement can have a disclaimer on it, then the only fair thing to do would be to put right the omission on Oliver’s statement and let the membership know.

The other candidates (included Sebastien Lahtinen) went to great lengths to declare where they saw there could be conflicts of interest, and regardless of whether Oliver is not an executive director at Mesh Digital, he is still a senior member of staff and one who gets prominent placing and mention on the Mesh website alongside the CEO.

Not only that, there was a single announcement on 29 April last year about Mesh being the supplier of services to Nominet. Even the Mesh website does not mention this. I would hardly call this public knowledge and one which a voter would even know about or even remember.

We all had to sign a declaration stating that the statement of interest was full and complete and not misleading.

If this was an oversight on Oliver’s part, then I had brought it to Nominet’s attention on 29 April. What I did not expect (whether the candidate was recommended or not) was that Nominet do nothing about it. Yet this is exactly what happened.

I was informed by a Board member during the morning of the AGM that the value of the contract Mesh have with Nominet to provide the reseller platform for .cymru and .wales is insignificant and that I had “simply made yourself look silly”

Once again, it is not about the size of the contract but one of openness, transparency and having candidates follow the rules as laid out.

2) Neither Nominet not Popularis wanting to take on board my complaint.

I got the impression that both Popularis and Nominet were pointing to each other when I wanted to raise a complaint. Popularis said it was not their role (although they thanked me for keeping them informed), and Nora pointed to Popularis as the adjudicator.

It was only a few minutes before the AGM started that I was informed by Nora, via email, that I should contact you directly.

3) Lack of urgency when it came to responses from both Nick Wenban-Smith and Nora Nanayakkara.

In an election time of one month, such delays do nothing to show impartiality for the non-recommended candidates standing for election.

Apart from on a few occasions, it took Nick at least a couple of days to respond to emails. At one point I had to chase him for a response as 9 days had passed and I had still not heard from him.

The main issue I had was raised with Nora (via Nick) and it was 12 days before I received a response… the response received in the afternoon prior to the AGM.

4) Selective answering of questions…

It is not secret that I have had run-ins with Nick in the past. While I am certain he is quite good at his job, one can not say that he is always correct and when called into question he seems to go on the defensive (by becoming a brick wall) rather than take on board the concerns of members.

This was evident last year, and again earlier this year (during the 3 months it took to get my membership transferred), and again during these elections.

A case in point was the membership list – despite evidence to the contrary, Nick insisted that neither Oscar nor Hazel requested the membership list… when in fact it was Oscar who requested it on our behalf. Nick continued arguing that they did not request it (even though I showed the evidence).

I was the only one to received it in a format which was pretty useless… PDF file and even though I requested a spreadsheet (which would have been better for mail merge purposes). Nick suggested PDF was the format he sent out the list electronically. This was not true as I am aware (and mentioned to him) that he has sent out the list as a spreadsheet in the past… upon providing him with proof of this, I received no further responses on this matter from him. No apology, no list in spreadsheet format (although by that time with the to-ing and fro-ing of emails and his delays in responding, the close of the AGM was just a week away).

In addition, the the answer to question on how to contact the elections committee directly was never answered.

Further I asked Nora some very specific questions, yet I did not receive any answers to those.

While I do have my thoughts and opinions on Nominet, Governance and voting structure, this email is specifically about the lack of openness transparency in the recent election and Nominet failing to acknowledge or see this as an issue.

Rennie, if you have any further questions about what I have written or wish to speak with me further about this, please do not hesitate to contact me. I do not wish to work against Nominet or the Board.. in fact I iish to work with yourselves to make a better Nominet.

Best Regards

This was further to a response from Nora just before the AGM and my response to her during the AGM. Emails below for openness and transparency:

From: Nora Nanayakkara ; 21 May

Dear Denesh,

First I am acknowledging your message.
However, I feel that you are reiterating your previous complaints, to which you have received prompt and consistent replies from Nick, Popularis and I. I feel the issue you have is not that we have not addressed your various grievances, rather that you don’t agree with them.
I am sorry about that, but there is not much more that I can do to help you on that front.
If you wish to make a formal complaint about my handling of the elections process then that should be addressed in the first instance to Rennie as Chair of the Board.
Yours sincerely,
Nora Nanayakkara
From: Denesh Bhabuta ; 21 May
Thanks for your response, Nora.
I will reiterate that this is not about me disagreeing about the outcome, but instead one of lack of openness and transparency which I do feel has not been addressed.
Regardless of the outcome of the election this is something I will take forward with the Chair, as advised by you in your email below.
Best Regards


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