Proposal to help CC with potential conflicts of interest

Mark Shuttleworth mark at ubuntu.com
Tue Jun 9 12:40:56 UTC 2015


Dear TB

This is not a technical topic, but a governance one on which I'd
appreciate your perspective.

When we set all this up, we knew from observation that a code of conduct
and a firm governance structure would be important, and by and large I
think our arrangements in this regard have helped us balance complex
webs of interests for the best benefit of all participants in the project.
The CC plays a critical role in the project; a large part of their
responsibility is to act as a trusted and neutral arbiter of differences
between teams or individuals in Ubuntu. In addition to regular meetings
with different councils and team leads, and the running of the selection
processes for those teams the CC acts as a neutral trustee of the values
encoded in the CoC. There have been a number of occasions when
individuals have been asked to step down from positions of
responsibility or membership after complaints raised by one party
against another, arbitrated b the CC.

It has been pointed out that a potential conflict of interest arises if
it is a member of the CC who is a party to such a dispute. We have
general guidance that a conflicted party should recuse themselves from
such deliberations. If it were a single member of the CC, then the
remainder could probably handle the issue in a way that was seen to be
independent. If however the issue is more systemic, then we might need
to bolster the ranks of those able to weigh in, independently. While the
general idea is that "appeal is to the BDFL", in some cases, I too might
be obviously conflicted on a matter.

A suggestion to address this is that the TB, as a very well-respected
team that is elected with support of a broad segment of the project
(though not as broad as the CC), would be a useful source from which to
draw independent perspectives in such a corner case.

The suggestion feels reasonable and appropriate to me. I think we would
all want to avoid an infinite loop of appeals, or the TB being drawn
into every matter on which the CC makes a tough decision, but I think in
the decade-long history of the project there have perhaps been only one
or two such issues and I think we would be able to scope this practice
to the simple case where there is no non-CC complainant , or where the
CC or substantial members of the CC are direct parties to a dispute. I
like the idea that, when needed, we would have an obvious and
pre-selected place to seek independent perspectives rather than me (as a
potentially conflicted party) having to constitute a fresh, independent
body.

I am writing to see how you, as a representative TB, feel about the
proposal. If you are comfortable with handling such discussions in the
very unlikely event they were to occur, that would be sufficient support
for me to suggest it as a good practice to the CC for future reference.
As the project gets a little older, it's not inappropriate for us to
endeavour to be a little wiser too, so put this email in that bucket :)

Mark
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