2015 was the year the OTW finally began to encounter some resistance to its fundraising efforts among fans with histories of strong support for it but who were nonetheless concerned about the organization’s approach to its finances, among other things.
- “a) The lack of a budget for 2016, and possibly for prior years, and the Board’s role in this
- “b) That OTW is asking for $175,000 without a budget, and refuses to explain how they arrived at that figure
- “c) That the fundraising drive happened after the deadline to join and vote in the upcoming election (October 6)
- “d) The OTW does not break down their expenses by program. When asked about it, OTW staff gave links which many felt did no such thing.
- “e) Allegations of lack of financial safeguards against fraud
- “f) OTW doesn’t allow donators to earmark their donations”
Specific problems with how the OTW has managed its money are described on the OTW Fiscal Mismanagement page.
Another nonny noted that the OTW began to announce fundraising goals for the first time on AO3 in late 2014, despite having been in existence since 2008; in both fall 2014 and spring 2015 they met or exceeded their goals. “I think having visible goals made the lack of a budget and the poor planning much more glaring. The questions aren’t new; they’ve just been getting increasingly louder and more widespread for the past year.”
Sanders vs. the BoardEdit
As the first nonny linked above mentioned, controversy over the OTW’s finances was sparked by two things: comments in the manifestos of new candidates for the Board of Directors about poor fiscal management at the OTW, and the firing of treasurer Nikisha Sanders, which also forced her withdrawal as a candidate for Board re-election.
The subject first came up on FFA on Sep. 15. A few ex-volunteers had good things to say about a couple of the candidates, but one expressed “serious, serious issues” with OTW fiscal management in the last several years; “the Financial Committee seems to have been allowed to collapse and as far as I can tell they have had just the one person (Nikisha Sanders) with oversight of the money.”
The next day, a nonny linked to a post by svmadelyn, who had “looked through all the candidate statements and noted disturbing comments about the finance department.” Two had criticized Sanders without naming her; e.g., Matty Bowers had lamented that committees had been unable to get all their bills paid on time. Subsequent nonnies blamed a combination of Sanders’ dilatory approach to responding to emails and no one else being authorized to make payments. The bill-paying problem was verified by a current staffer on meme; the rumor that Sanders thus almost caused the OTW to lose the Fanlore.org domain name was also mentioned.
Then there was “this announcement that Sanders has resigned from her position as Treasurer - but still wants to serve again on the Board.” Another nonny translated the statement as, “We fired their ass, but we’re technically giving them a modicum of dignity.” An internal-only version of the announcement was shared on meme, and it was noted that Sanders was not thanked for her service therein.
In a post on her Dreamwidth, as broken down by this nonny and this one, Sanders wrote that the Board asked for her resignation, got it, consulted an outside attorney, created an entirely new position for her, and “suddenly changed the rules regarding the status of staff to attach her other roles in the organization to the Treasurer position after the fact.” Note this rule: “As of 2014, in order to be eligible to run for Board, a candidate must … be a current staffer on a standing committee in the OTW.”
This nonny further explains that in July 2014, when the Board dissolved the Financial Committee, they decided Sanders would remain a Board member ex officio — a decision recorded only on a page accessible only to OTW volunteers (but see more here per this nonny). “But it’s complete bullshit: she was working in Development & Membership, and had been doing so all year. She was part of the committee. She met the eligibility criteria. This is a shitty fabricated loophole that they created by firing her. Yeah, no wonder people are afraid.”
In the above-mentioned DW post, and in answers to questions on AO3 about her re-election campaign, Sanders blamed the Board for giving her insufficient support. In a later DW post, Sanders said she didn't expect to win, but if she did, she expected the Board to invoke its new abilities to oust fellow members in order to get rid of her. Nonnies wondered why anyone would vote for someone so “grudgy” and “resentful” toward the Board. Nor did Sanders’ claim that she had wanted to replace the Finance Committee with an internal audit committee, which the Board opposed, impress nonnies much at this late date.
Meme consensus on this matter is that Sanders was terrible at her job and an asshole (self-described, even) to boot: “she flips out at people, takes everything personally, and is incapable of maintaining any kind of standard of professional behavior.” Nonetheless, the Board is considered equally incompetent and abusive, especially Andrea Horbinski, and their course of action occurred after Sanders had announced her candidacy rather than during the three years of her tenure as treasurer. “The timing of this makes it seem like the Board was more concerned about impacting the election than actually caring about the welfare of the organization.” Also: “Most people would be fine with getting rid of sanders. The board didn't need to do it in the shadiest way possible. Now, everyone looks even worse.”
Horbinski, believed by some nonnies to be the Board member who engineered Sanders’ expulsion from the OTW, is if anything held in even lower regard. In her manifesto she claims that being asked for her goals “gives people an inaccurate idea of how the OTW Board (or any board) works!” Nonnies regarded this statement with dismay. Moreover, Horbinski
- is also openly hostile and rude to volunteers. To the point that the rest of the board had to officially apologize for her in the past. She also celebrated a past board member [Anna Genovese] rage quitting on twitter, and send the most passive aggressive internal emails I ever saw. I have no idea why she is doing on board either (or in the otw for that matter since no one can remember she doing any actual work in any committee). But she does for sure want to come back, to our collective despair.
Another nonny described themselves as “the target of what I can describe as nothing more than harassment and bullying by [Horbinski] as a staff member and getting no support from the Board when I raised a concern about it ... She also lacks the self-awareness to recognize her behavior when she's called on it and the tact to even offer the simplest apology when the impact of her words and actions are presented to her.”
The new rule banning non-staffers from running for the board appears not to affect Horbinski, even though she’s in the same boat. “Clearly rules don't apply to Andrea, considering that they apparently let her be involved in the process of disqualifying one of the people running against her.”
Nonnies linked to basic OTW service records for each candidate, outlined how each plans to balance their current role with Board responsibilities, and (in subcomments) summarized the platform of each.
Beyond that, nonnies have been skeptical that candidates can keep up their current managerial responsibilities while on the Board; wary of conflicts of interest; impressed with Atiya Hakeem, Matty Bowers, and Aline Carrão; and not so impressed with Eylul Dogrul.
Board Shenanigans, ContinuedEdit
In addition to now being able to vote out their own colleagues at will without cause, the Board has also shrank itself. According to this Fanlore page, there should be nine seats, but per the OTW website there are currently six sitting members. The election is supposedly for two seats, which will result in a five-person Board. See also this comment from Kiri van Santen, as well as these comments by nonnies.
Additionally, “the Elections Commitee is not allowed to discuss the topic on this site without the approval of the Board and the Legal Committee.” Nonny: “Yeah, totally aboveboard and definitely not a gag order in any way, shape or form. Elections isn't allowed to talk about elections?”
Furthermore, as discussed in this AO3 thread, while donors are supposed to be able to vote for Board members, the deadline for voting eligibility this year was Oct. 6 — the same day the new fundraiser began. Therefore, anyone who donates to the OTW during this fundraiser gets no vote. Commenter Ro believes the Board absolutely intended to fool anyone who was not keenly attuned to OTW goings-on.
Volunteers Cannot Vote Without DonatingEdit
Furthermore, no amount of volunteer time put in at the OTW will earn a volunteer a vote without an accompanying donation of $10.00 U.S. “That theoretically means that someone can be doing free work for the org for like eight hours a week for an entire year and still have no say in the direction the org should go in if their financial situation is crap.” This could be rectified if the OTW wished to track volunteer hours, but they do not.
- So, why exactly don’t you let your precious translation volunteers become members (and vote) by refusing to track their hours? Someone can make 40+ hours/week contribution and you still require them to pay you to become a member. I didn’t exactly feel empowered working for you.
The “answer,” as it were, is that the by-laws say that nobody can get a vote without ponying up ten bucks — and “An organization must follow its own by-laws, and our by-laws say we can’t do it.” Changing the OTW’s by-laws is apparently not possible. Ex-Volunteer again:
- All you’ve said is that law requires you to follow your bylaws. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t your deliberate choice to exclude this option which isn't illegal ON ITS OWN RIGHT. It’s outright deception to claim you can’t do it because law forbids it. Actually, I see why you don’t want all your volunteers to be able to vote.
Ex-V showed up on meme to say, “Well, I am an ex-volunteer and when I found out that they were lying to me, I was quite pissed off.”
The Election and Immediate AftermathEdit
The results of the election came out on Nov. 22. Atiya Hakeem (LadyOscar) and Matty Bowers had won the two contested seats, which everyone was generally happy with. However, the board had also decided to reelect Andrea Horbinski to a third vacant seat without giving anyone any notice or opportunity to contest this; they'd never even mentioned there was a third seat available. According to statistics later released by the Election Committee, Horbinski received roughly one-third as many votes as the fifth-place candidate.
When this was revealed, AO3 users everywhere flipped the fuck out. The Elections Committee posted about this, stating that "Precedent, common sense, and ethics dictate that the membership's choices in an election be considered and respected. The Elections Committee supports the appointment of Alex Tischer to the Board to fill Anna's seat." (Tischer was the third-place candidate.) Meme produced two large threads in the same post on the subject. The first, "OTW elections: presented without comment", went to 164 comments. It was posted during the open meeting where Horbinski was "elected," presumably by an OTW volunteer nonnie, and is largely about that meeting. In that thread, a link to a transcript of the meeting was posted. (That link goes to a nonny's side blog, not the original posting of the transcript, which is apparently only available to logged-in Tumblr users now.) They show that the volunteers present were, to a person, appalled and angry that the Board had done such a thing. AO3 volunteers and members on Tumblr started talking about votes of no confidence and ousting the Board completely. A particular point of contention was that Horbinski had been allowed to vote for herself.
The second meme thread, posted hours later and reaching 261 comments, was titled "Did the entire OTW board just resign?!" They had. Apparently, unable to deal with the backlash from re-electing Horbinski, the entire Board except for the two newly elected members had quit. Reactions ranged from "break out the celebratory booze" to "So do you think that the two remaining board members will get all the info on the embezzlement that has clearly been taking place, or will it just come as a surprise when they go to do the taxes in January?" (no actual embezzlement was mentioned by any OTW source as of late January 2015, but that thread goes into some detail on why nonnies suspect it may have occurred) to Tumblr's "AO3 is going to delete everything in hours!" Both threads also contain some speculation on WTF the Board thought they were doing and general suggestions for the new Board members on what to do next.
The two new Board members made a news post on Jan. 25. They stated that "The OTW and its projects... are operating normally," explained some of the facts of the situation, and reassured everyone about what they were intending to do next. In general, the comments seemed positive and excited for this fresh start.