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Wikipedia board stands by new ex-Googler appointee

He's our man

Tesla’s controversial HR chief has pleaded with Wikipedians for their trust, in a style so unctuous it could make Dickens’ Uriah Heep blush.

Arnnon Geshuri, a former Google executive, was appointed to the Board of Trustees at the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) over the Christmas dead period. The WMF is the cash-rich organisation, registered as a nonprofit, that owns the Wikipedia brand, and dispenses money to local groups (or “chapters”). It’s estimated to have $100m cash on hand after the latest fundraising drive.

As Geshuri was being appointed, it emerged that a community-elected board member was being ousted. James Heilman had been elected by the community last year, but was kicked out, or so he claims, after he refused to resign. Geshuri didn’t directly replace Heilman, whose Board seat is currently vacant. Jimmy Wales has since dismissed Heilman’s claims as “utter fucking bullshit”.

The appointment of Geshuri has attracted criticism from the community because of his role in the Silicon Valley staff poaching scandal while employed as a “senior staffing strategist” at Google. Silicon Valley companies including Google, Apple and Intel later settled the case after a DoJ complaint said they had violated US antitrust legislation by suppressing engineers' wages by agreeing not to hire each other’s staff.

“As the community gets to know me,” Geshuri pleaded yesterday, “folks will see the way I work is with thoughtfulness, transparency, diversity, and a focus on doing what is right.”

The Board expressed its continuing support for the new Trustee.

But his fine words haven’t buttered many parsnips. A vote of no confidence over the appointment stands at 268:21. The vote, as the community contributors note, "has no legal weight, but should be taken into consideration by the board of trustees to fulfil the Wikimedia Foundation statement of values".

Three former chairs of the WMF Board of Trustees have expressed dismay at the appointment: Florence Devouard, Kat Walsh and Michael Snow.

“Press coverage like the BBC's this evening which leads with Jimmy Wales' face, have damaged the WMF's reputation and our projects that rely on "Wikimedia" remaining a trusted name… your failure to resign gracefully is not a risk, but a major incident and an embarrassment,” writes ‘Fae’, aka Ashley Van Haeften, a former chairman of WMUK, the UK chapter of the WMF.

The WMF is not a membership organisation, leading one supporter to ask if the removal of members from the organisation’s bylaws in 2006 was entirely legal. ®

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