Four ICANN Directors Called “Boardsquatters”

Since its inception, controversy has swirled around the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit organization which serves as the Internet’s governing body.

The pattern of controversy was perpetuated last Friday when A. Michael Froomkin, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, labeled four of ICANN’s directors “boardsquatters.”

ICANN announced Friday that the four — Frank Fitzsimmons, Hans Kraaijenbrink, Jun Murai and Linda Wilson — would extend their terms until November 2002. The four were part of nine interim at large members of ICANN’s Board of Directors, appointed to serve in that capacity until an elected Board of Directors could be installed. All nine of the directors joined the board with the understanding that their terms would last no more than two years.

ICANN’s board has 19 directors in total: nine at large directors (including the seats in question), nine directors appointed by ICANN’s three supporting organizations, and the president/chief executive officer (an ex officio position).

All nine of the original ICANN at large directors made the decision to extend the terms of four of their number during meetings in Cairo and Yokohama earlier this year. But that doesn’t sit well with some members of ICANN’s at large constituency who earlier this month participated in ICANN’s first elections to choose their own representatives on the board.

Five of the nine directors — Chairman Esther Dyson, Geraldine Capdeboscq, George Conrades, Greg Crew and Eugenio Triana — will step down next month in favor of newly elected directors Karl Auerback, Ivan Moura Campos, Masanobu Katoh, Andy Mueller-Maguhn and Nii Quaynor.

Froomkin charged that the four, with the help of the rest of the directors, extended their terms on the board through an arbitrary and secretive process.

“Who decided which directors would stay on?” Froomkin wrote. “The decision on those who would accept extended terms was made by the nine original directors in secret, with no public process. In the past, ICANN’s unelected board members have cited ‘continuity’ as a reason for staying on. That’s balderdash: even if they all left today, a majority of the board — nine members — would be experienced, and only five would be new (what’s more, most of the five new directors have considerable ICANN experience and/or superior technical credentials). Plus, there’s the continuity provided by the staff members who have been with ICANN since it started. No, the real reason why unelected board members would hang on is because they are afraid of what ICANN might do if they are not there to stop it. They don’t trust their own system, and they especially don’t trust the result of elections.”

Froomkin added, “In confronting this upcoming opportunity to again perpetuate themselves, each of these four persons must ask themselves: “Are my promises to be trusted? What would continuing on the ICANN board say about me?” The answer is clear: Staying on past your original terms says you are a boardsquatter.”

Mike Roberts, president of ICANN, countered, “The only person whose integrity is at stake in this bit of foolishness in Froomkin’s.” Roberts cited an e-mail to the ICANN-Europe mailing list by Alexander Svensson, which he called “an arms-length, third-party view of the sequence of events.”

On Sunday, Svensson wrote, “In Yokohama, ICANN staff had prepared a resolution that the terms of the four interim directors should be extended only by ‘one’ year. This plan was heavily criticized at the public forum in Yokohama because cutting down the At Large representation on the board to only five directors after 2001 was seen as a dangerous precedent. A new resolution was prepared so that nine At Large directors (five elected, four interim) remain part of the board.

“Now, Michael Froomkin calls on the interim

directors to resign. As usually, ICANN is criticized either way.”

Kraaijenbrink declined to comment. Fitzsimmons, Murai and Wilson could not be reached.

InternetNews Radio host Brian McWilliams contributed to this story.

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