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Nominet top brass reject resignation call

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The executives in charge of Nominet, the not-for-profit company responsible for the .uk web address registry, have rejected calls from elected directors to resign and face a vote of confidence from members.

CEO Lesley Cowley told The Register that she and chairman Bob Gilbert would not call a company meeting in response to recent boardroom turmoil. It was up to members to trigger an emergency meeting if they want one, she added, saying "it's business as usual".

Cowley said she still believed she and Gilbert have the support of the majority of Nominet members. "Just because two people are not supportive that's not a basis on which to call a general meeting," she said.

The two people Cowley referred to are non-executive Nominet director Jim Davies and now former non-executive director Angus Hanton. Earlier this week Davies wrote he believed Cowley and Gilbert were mismanaging the company and called for them to quit. He was backed up on Wednesday by Hanton, who resigned his boardroom seat and said the executives should do the same.

The split has exposed deep conflicts around the .uk registry and drawn scrutiny of Nominet's corporate governance from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). Last month BERR wrote to the company board asking it to explain why it should be independent from Whitehall and noting that many other national registries are at least part controlled by their government.

Both sides say they would prefer civil servants to keep out of the running of .uk and Nominet has initiated a review of its structure.

Davies' and Hanton's critics have accused them of a deliberate attempt to destabilise the company on behalf on domainers - who buy up generic web address to sell on for profit - which they deny. Cowley said she didn't believe such allegations. "It's an unfortunate public disagreement on future direction," she said.

Jim Davies was elected on his agenda of cutting prices for members, but Hanton has said he resigned because of a specific staff disciplinary process that he believed was being mishandled.

Cowley said an independent person would be appointed next week to carry out the structural review. She specifically denied rumours that executives or anyone within Nominet had approached BERR for help following the election of Jim Davies to the board at May's AGM. She said she knew who had called in the government after members did not, but refused to identify them.

BERR became involved after a proposal at the AGM by the executive to assume powers to appoint unelected non-executive directors to represent the interests on non-members failed to attract enough support.

Cowley rejected further rumours that the executive would like the government to be directly involved in .uk governance, and reaffirmed its commitment to industry self regulation and Nominet's status as a membership organisation, but said: "We are not just here for the members buit for everyone who uses .uk. That is quite a challenging thing to do but that doesn't necessarily mean it's unsustainable in its current form."

Cowley refused to comment on the future of Jim Davies at Nominet. He has refused to sign an undertaking that he will avoid conflicts of interest arising from his work as a solicitor in domain name disputes. "The board will need to consider this further," she said. ®

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