OpenStack: Allegation of 'abusive' conversation under investigation

Nominee withdraws, claiming pressure from Corporate Member exec

Days after opening its nomination process for Individual Member elections, the OpenStack Foundation is investigating allegations that an executive within one of the Foundation's corporate member companies may have pressured an Individual Member candidate to withdraw her nomination for a board position.

Shanley Kane, Director of Product Management at Basho, was one of the nominees for the OpenStack Board of Directors elections opened for nominations on July 25. On Twitter Saturday, Kane described a correspondence she received from an unnamed executive soon after learning she was a nominee.

"A few hours after finding out I was nominated for the #openstack board of directors to be elected by the Individual Members last night... I was contacted by an executive at one of the #openstack corporate member companies who asked 'why the fuck I was running'… And proceeded to suggest I should publicly discuss my conflicts of interest (my employer also makes an object storage product). Before 'a certain someone points that out.'"

A note on source: Kane posted much of this incident's description in bursts on her Twitter feed Saturday, and then posted a condensed version on a Gist page within her GitHub account. However, later Saturday, the descriptions of the incident were removed on both Twitter and GitHub. The Twitter posts are not recoverable, but the Gist post was forked and apparently copied word for word by her co-worker Justin Sheehy, CTO at Basho. It is from this copy the accusations from Kane are quoted:

"After I suggested that this was threatening and abusive and all discussions should take place on the public mailing list... I received a 'legalese' email stating that, as a company, the corporate partner he represented would not be able to nominate me implying that the corporate entity somehow had the right to, as a corporate member, influence the Individual Members election. I don't find mention of such corporate partner ability in the Bylaws. It was also stated that if I would reveal my company's plans, the decision could be revisited. Due to the threatening and unpleasant nature of this interaction I am removing my nomination for the #openstack board. I am gravely concerned about attempts of corporate members to interfere in the Individual Members election."

Two attempts to contact Kane Saturday for comment have gone unanswered.

For their part, high-ranking members of the OpenStack Foundation have been quick to respond. Early Sunday morning (0118 CDT), Jonathan Bryce, founder of The Rackspace Cloud, sent a message to the OpenStack mailing list.

"We've learned that someone may have violated the basic principles that hold this community together by trying to affect the nominations for the Individual Member elections. This is not what our community stands for, and we do not want to let the actions of one or a few tarnish the reputation of the thousands of individuals who are working to make OpenStack a great place to develop open source software. We are so determined to uphold our values that every member--individual or corporate--agrees to a code of conduct that prohibits abusive behavior and attempts to manipulate our elections," Bryce wrote.

When reached for comment Sunday afternoon, Bryce reiterated his assertion.

"We take any kind of complaint like this seriously," Bryce said.

But thus far, Bryce and his fellow OpenStack team members are still trying to ascertain the details of what was said and by whom. "We're still trying to gather more information," he responded when asked if he had learned the identity of the corporate executive.

Based on Twitter comments from Joshua McKenty, founder and CEO of PistonCloud, he's not the only one trying to figure out what happened.

McKenty tweeted Saturday to fellow community members that "without cooperation from @shanley [Kane] I've got to call lawyers at each member corp. It's slow, will keep you posted."

The OpenStack Foundation Community Code of Conduct that Bryce referred to in his Sunday morning message, which all Corporate and Individual Members must sign, specifically prohibits any sort of election manipulation.

"Respect the election process. Members should not attempt to manipulate election results. Open debate is welcome, but vote trading, ballot stuffing and other forms of abuse are not acceptable."

Kane's only public statement since the posts on Twitter and GitHub were removed was succinct.

"For the record, my nomination was as an individual, my discussion of this matter is as an individual. I only represent myself in this matter," Kane wrote.

"Our independent counsel is overseeing the election," Bryce emphasized. "He is always available to hear any kind of complaint."

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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