[Osmf-talk] May 2017 use of Code Of Conduct (CoC) for Membership control in HOT US Inc internal governance

nicolas chavent nicolas.chavent at gmail.com
Fri Dec 1 19:36:49 UTC 2017

Dear all,

I expressed a *principled position* about why it's important to balance the
representation of the "Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team US Inc" (aka HOT US
Inc) at the OpenStreetMap Foundation Board (OSMF) Board to favour the
diversity of OpenStreetMap perspectives in this institutional body [1].

Rightly, Code Of Conduct (CoC) has been one topics discussed since the
beginning of the OSMF election [2] and Heather Leson featured in his
manifesto [3] her work at the HOT US Inc Governance Working Group to
deliver a CoC and how CoC would be fundamental for OSMF succeeding in
achieving its mandate.

How Heather Leson triggered in HOT US Inc the use of CoC after the 2015 OSMF
Board elections against only two (myself and Severin Menard) of many
“hotties” with a double affiliation at the OSMF who took part in the
electoral discussions of the Foundation showed how a CoC can be used for
membership control and constitutes a *specific reason *for balancing the
presence of HOT US Inc reps at the OSMF Board. [4].

In May 2017, the HOT US Inc Board used again CoC to prevent a discussion
about Conflict Of Interest (CoI) and the solution to replace a Board Member
who had to resign in order to comply with the CoI polity of its
organization. That’s another CoC case and another *specific reason *for
balancing the presence of HOT US Inc reps at the OSMF Board.

After April 2017 HOT US Inc Board election [5], in May 2017 Jorieke Vyckle
decided to step down from the Board of HOT US Inc. She joined Medecins Sans
Frontieres (MSF) as TheMissingMap project coordinator. And with Pete
Masters (MSF) staff there were 2 MSF staffs at the HOT US Inc Board. MSF CoI
policy is strict and does not allow more than 1 MSF Employee at the Board
of a partnering organization.

The Board via Mikel Maron, Chair of Voting Members (or Chairman),
communicated to the members that the Board had decided to call for a
General Assembly and appoint as Board Officer the first non elected
candidate of April 2017.

In the past similar situations developed in HOT US Inc (due to compliance
of Boad Officers with CoI of their organizations World Bank, White House,
MSF). Never the solution decided at Board level had been implemented.
Either an election was run (Feb 2013 [6], June 2015 [7])

When I was at the Board with Pierre Beland, the World Bank CoI forced a
Board Member to step down, and Mikel sought already to enforce the
appointment of Heather Leson as first non-elected candidate of the 2012
Election. The rationale for this was to "save time" shall this result into
a gray democratic legitimacy for someone who had then NO experience in OSM
and HOT. Pierre and I opposed Mikel and organized an election process which
brought Heather Leson to the Board.

I therefore emailed the membership on two points :

* Call for discussions on how to best replace the resigning member and
stick to best past practises so that the membership gave full legitimacy to
the new Board officer.

* Call for discussions on CoI in HOT US Inc and making clear that we were
loosing our autonomy as an Org with respect to the partner-organization
represented at our Board.
I used the same contents and tone that I used in my 2015 HOT US Inc run up
for the Board as well as one post on the public hot-mailing list [8] on
this matter since they had been found acceptable like all election
communications of this election by Russel Deffner the Chair of Voting

The result has been two fold :

1.  Mikel Maron as Chairman warned the members to contribute to the
discussions that I initiated on the internal hot membership list that
depending on their writing and contents they would be subject to CoC

Discussions about alternatives to the Board decision were stopped with CoC
complaints procedures stressed out by the Chair of Voting members ; email
reads as below:

* ---------- Forwarded message ----------*

* From: <mikel.maron at hotosm.org>*

* Date: Sat, May 13, 2017 at 2:02 AM*

* Subject: Re: [hotosm-membership] Changes on the Board*

* To: Membership <membership at hotosm.org>*

* Members*

* Allow me to clarify after the previous message. HOT maintains a strong
Conflict of Interest policy that requires disclosure and recusal from any
decision making that may impact a material interest of a Board member. This
policy has served HOT well. Other organizations have different requirements
in handling Conflict of Interest. In the case of Jorieke, she is following
MSF requirements, and we are sad to see her go but understanding.*

* The Board is recommending a Special Meeting where the membership will
vote to fill the vacancy left by Jorieke with Slayer. We have only last
month completed an election process. Slayer was the only additional member
to run for the Board. Considering this, the sensible decision of the Board
is to ask the membership to vote on Slayer at an upcoming Special Meeting.
If a majority of those present at the meeting vote for Slayer, he will be
elected. This is in accordance with the Bylaws governing HOT.*

* If you have any other questions on Conflict of Interest or the upcoming
election, please contact me directly at this point, and I will answer any
questions. Please also keep in mind our Code of Conduct in any further
posts on this mailing list.*

* -Mikel*

2. I was notified about the initiation of CoC complaint procedure which
read as follow

Apparently the topics and contents of discussions carried out on the
internal HOT US Inc membership list which were deemed compliant with CoC
requirements in 2015 HOT US Inc Election by our Chairman Russell Deffner,
is no longer compliant with CoC requirements in 2017 by his replacement
Mikel Maron.

That’s indicative of a significant shrinking of Freedom Of Speech within
HOT US Inc which singles itself out from other OSM organizations and OSMF
to start with

*---------- Forwarded message ----------*

* From: Mikel Maron <mikel.maron at hotosm.org>*

* Date: Sun, May 14, 2017 at 4:13 PM*

* Subject: Moderation*

* To: Nicolas Chavent <nicolas.chavent at gmail.com <http://gmail.com>>*

* Cc: HOT Board <board at hotosm.org>*

* Nicolas*

* Code of Conduct complaint procedures have been initiated following your
post to the HOT membership mailing list. You will be hearing additional
information as the process takes the next steps. No actions or
communications are required from you at the moment.*

* During the process, your messages to the membership mailing list will be
moderated. Messages from you on different topics than the current
complaint, and that meet the standard for good communication, may be
approved. The complaint procedures may take into account any subsequent
communications by you, whether direct, attempted public posts, or public

* Sincerely*

* Chair of Voting Members*

So far, I did not hear back from my Chair of Voting Members nor my Board,
which suggests:

- A basic lack of respect for the person: “moderation” or limitation of
Freedom of Speeches is not a trivial thing

- A complete lack of the Right of the Defendant in this process

- HOT US Inc CoC freshly released package and its enforcement has its

Overall for the OSMF 2017 this episode stresses that:

- CoC has to be approached carefully shall we do not want them to be part
of membership/community control mechanisms

- The way that CoC has been used in HOT US Inc in 2015 and 2017 to
sanction, exclude, silent members and prevent discussions to happen on
given topics (CoI, governance…) is indicative of a specific organizational
democratic culture which singled it out. This culture contradicts the
principles of internal democracy (right to information, freedom of speech,
right of the defendants…) which form the basis of any real active and
informed membership based organizations that OpenSource, OpenData and
OpenStreetMap organizations are putting rightfully upfront.

*Hence why there are both principled and specific reasons to balance HOT US
Inc influence at the OSMF, favor diversity and mitigate the risks that go
with this HOT US Inc organizational culture*



[1]: https://www.openstreetmap.org/user/Nicolas%20Chavent/diary/42842

[2]: https://lists.openstreetmap.org/pipermail/osmf

[3]: http://www.openstreetmap.org/user/Heather%20Leson/diary/42706

[4]: https://lists.openstreetmap.org/pipermail/osmf

[5]: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Humanitarian_OSM

[6]: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Humanitarian_OSM

[7]: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Humanitarian_OSM

[8]: https://lists.openstreetmap.org/pipermail/hot/2015-March/007650.html

Nicolas Chavent
Les Libres Géographes
Projet OpenStreetMap (OSM)
Projet Espace OSM Francophone (EOF)
Projet GeOrchestra
Mobile (FR): +33 (0)6 52 40 78 20
Mobile (Bénin): +22962 55 85 91
Email: nicolas.chavent at gmail.com
Skype: c_nicolas
Twitter: nicolas_chavent
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