Wikipedia COO was convicted felon
Exclusive For more than six months, beginning in January of this year, Wikipedia's million-dollar check book was balanced by a convicted felon.
When Carolyn Bothwell Doran was hired as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Florida-based Wikimedia Foundation, she had a criminal record in three other states - Virginia, Maryland, and Texas - and she was still on parole for a DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) hit and run.
Her record also included convictions for passing bad checks, theft, petty larceny, additional DUIs, and unlawfully wounding her boyfriend with a gun shot to the chest.
Doran left the charitable Foundation in July this year, after another DUI arrest and a violation of her probation. Our efforts to contact Doran were unsuccessful, and her lawyer declined to comment.
The Wikimedia Foundation did not officially announce Doran's departure, even among the close-knit Wikipedia community. In September, when chairman of the board Florence Devouard was publicly asked why Doran had left her post, she suggested that the decision was Doran's, and in an interview with The Register, the Foundation's lawyer, Mike Godwin, was adamant that Doran resigned her post.
Godwin also said that he and the Foundation are still unaware of Doran's criminal record: "We've never had any documentation of any criminal record on Carolyn Doran's part at all," he told us. "As far as I'm concerned, I have no direct knowledge of [her criminal record] yet...We have, in our records, no evidence of any such thing."
Carolyn Doran, in a photo posted to Wikipedia
Meanwhile, an audit of the Foundation's finances - which was originally due for release in September, according to the Foundation website - is still pending. "We've gone through a whole lot of growth over the last year, including staffing up, so our audit is in progress," Godwin said. "It's very hard for us to give an exact ETA on it, but we expect it in a few weeks." He also said that the audit had been delayed by the Foundation's planned move to San Francisco.
The Wikimedia Foundation relies on public contributions and grants to fund its operations, and all contributions qualify as charitable deductions.
Chief Operating Officer
Before Doran was hired as COO, she worked for the Foundation through a temp agency, serving for "a few months" as a part-time accountant or bookkeeper. When she moved into the COO post, according to the Wikimedia Foundation website, her fiscal duties included ensuring effective audit trails, approving expenditures, providing proper fiscal record-keeping and reporting, and submitting monthly financial statements to the board of directors.
"I haven't seen this particular announcement before (it was issued before I came on board)," Mike Godwin told us, referring to the announcement of Doran's hiring as COO, "but what strikes me about it is that [Chairman Florence Devouard] is expressly noting that the COO position as defined will be 're-evaluated' as the board progresses to a decision on how best to fill the Executive Director position."
Four months after Doran's hiring, on May 20th, she was arrested by the Treasure Island, Florida police for driving while under the influence and driving while her license was suspended or revoked. This was at least her fourth DUI in ten years, which is a third degree felony in Florida. She paid a $5,250 bond and was released that same day.
Fifteen days later, she flew to Amsterdam for a Wikimedia Foundation board meeting, and when she returned to the US, she was stopped by customs and immigration. The officer who spoke to her, Joe Smagowicz, declined to provide us with any details on the interview.
On July 4 - an American holiday nearly a month after the return flight from Amsterdam - the Wikimedia Foundation passed a private resolution concerning Carolyn Doran, and she was soon removed from the official Foundation staff list. A month later, she was arrested and jailed by the Pinellas Park, Florida police after a warrant was issued by the sheriff in Loudoun County, Virginia.
"There was a warrant put out for her arrest for violating her probation, and extradition was nationwide," says Captain Sanfield Forseth, of the Pinellas Park police department.
According to Jo Ellen Rackleff, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Correction's office of public affairs, the warrant was issued at least in part because Doran had violated her parole with her flight to Amsterdam.
Carolyn Doran, after her arrest by the Pinellas Park, Florida police
In the summer of 2005, Doran went to prison for a DUI hit and run, and when she was released in January of 2006, she was put on probation. This November, after her arrest by the Pinellas Park police, she was extradited to Virginia, and she is currently in the Middle River Regional Jail in Staunton, Virginia.
Her Virginia criminal record also includes convictions for passing bad checks, petty larceny, and unlawfully wounding her boyfriend of eight years. Doran pleaded guilty to the shooting incident in 1990, and this was reported in The Washington Post.
Her Texas criminal record includes another DUI conviction, and in Maryland, she was convicted for stealing more than $300.
A month after Doran's second Florida arrest, in a post to the official Wikimedia mailing list, the Foundation board was asked what became of her. "Pray tell, what happened to Carolyn Doran?" a Wikipedia editor inquired. "I've asked on a number of fronts and been met with stone walls...The Chief Operating Officer of a top ten web property vanishes, with no explanation of any kind?"
Chairman Florence Devouard provided the only answer: "Has it ever occurred to you that Carolyn herself may have preferred so?" Devouard wrote. "If the issue disturbs you so much, I have a suggestion. Just give Carolyn a call...she is still living in Florida. You may try to find her contact on internet, or white pages? I think that when you want to know something, the best you can do is to ask directly the person. No?"
Devouard's suggestion was not a good one. At the time this note was posted, Carolyn Doran was locked in the Pinellas County, Florida jail.
The Wikimedia Foundation's fiscal year ended on June 30th, and according to a post on the Foundation web site, an audit was originally scheduled for release "by the end of September". "The planning work for the audit is set to begin by mid-August, with a view to complete the work by end of September," reads a statement posted in July. "We hope to have the final audited financial statements and report for you by this time."
But in November, Devouard said that the audit "is expected to be finished by the end of the calendar year (hopefully)." According to a previous audit, the foundation's total assets topped one million dollars in 2006. ®
January 4: The original version of this story said that Carolyn Doran's hit and run DUI resulted in a fatality. This was based on two separate sets of computer records - one with the Loudoun County, Virginia Circuit Court and another on the web site of the Virginia Judicial System. But these records are incorrect. Apologies to Carolyn Doran and her family.