Domainz is trying to broker a last-minute agreement between former CEO Patrick O’Brien and Alan Brown to head off both a court case and a special general meeting of the Internet Society (Isocnz).
Domainz board member Roger de Salis approached Brown with a settlement offer that included Brown apologising to O’Brien, O’Brien dropping the case and Domainz picking up the legal bill for both parties. Brown says this is similar to an approach made by Isocnz councillor Keith Davidson last month.
“Basically they want to be able to say ‘we tried to discuss it with him but he wouldn’t listen’,” says Brown. He says he would consider an offer that included Domainz paying all his business and legal costs, which he estimates to be around $100,000 or Domainz admiting it was wrong to support O’Brien in the first place.
“Then his case would basically fall apart.”
Brown, a director of ISP Manawatu Internet Services, is alleged to have defamed O'Brien, then CEO of the Isocnz-owned Domainz, in December 1999. The Isocnz council voted early last year to "acknowledge" Domainz was funding the action and has since been silent on the issue. Isocnz members, however, are known to be against Domainz's support of it.
At the annual general meeting of the society, members overwhelmingly voted against the decision, ousting a number of society councillors and demanding the society instruct Domainz to withdraw support. The society has told Domainz it is unhappy with the decision to fund O’Brien’s case, however the new board of Domainz feels it would be best to continue funding the case, according to the chair of Domainz, Bob Gray.
“There is a commitment made by the previous board and we feel it would be inappropriate to renege on that.” Gray says he would “like to see a resolution” to the dispute as soon as possible.
Meanwhile Isocnz member John Russell has taken the first step towards calling a special general meeting (SGM) to address the "moral outrage" caused by the Domainz board's support for O’Brien.
"The decision by the board of directors to pay the personal legal bills of an employee - or contractor, I'm not quite sure of the status of [O'Brien] - in a personal legal battle against a society member was morally and ethically poor," says Russell in his post, which was also provided to IDGNet.
"It is my personal opinion, as a society member, that this funding should be withdrawn, or similar funding be provided to the other party in this legal battle, and Isocnz/Domainz face the consequences of its actions."
Russell has drawn up five motions for a potential SGM, including one calling for Domainz to stop funding O'Brien and another for Domainz to fund Brown's defence. Two others call for board and council members to resign if they cannot follow the wishes of members.