Ex-Wikipedia staffer harpoons Wales over expenses
'All of my expenses were appropriate and fully accounted for'
A former employee of the Wikimedia Foundation has taken Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales to task over the way he handled his expenses.
"At one point, [Wales] owed the Foundation some $30,000 in receipts, and this while we were preparing for the audit," the post reads. The Wikimedia Foundation relies on public contributions and grants to fund its operations, and all contributions qualify as charitable deductions.
According to Wool, this $30,000 went unpaid until another Foundation employee or board member threatened to leak the problem to Wikipedia's community of volunteer editors. "His credit card was taken away from him, and he was told he had to pay that back," Wool told The Reg. Wales returned about $7,000 of the money, Wool says, but the rest is unaccounted for.
In an IM conversation with The Associated Press, Wales denied that his Foundation credit card was taken away, saying it was his decision to stop submitting receipts for reimbursement.
With his post, Wool also claimed that Wales asked the Foundation to reimburse him for some rather expensive items, including a dinner for four at a Tampa, Florida steakhouse. Wool told The Reg that the dinner included two bottles of wine, one priced at $400 and one priced at $250, and according to The AP, the bill totaled $1300. But in the end, Wool says, Wales was not reimbursed for the dinner.
Florence Devouard, chairman of the Foundation board, declined our request for an interview, suggesting we speak with Jay Walsh, the Foundation's director of communications. Walsh would not comment, but Wikimedia executive director Sue Gardner posted a reply to Wool, on his blog:
Over the past few days, I've been struggling a little with how to respond to this. I don't want to get drawn into a long back-and-forth in which Danny makes an ongoing series of loose insinuations, and the Foundation then needs to painstakingly reconstruct past events in order to refute him point-by-point.
So I'm going to make one simple statement: Jimmy has never used Wikimedia money to subsidize his personal expenditures. Indeed, he has consistently put the Foundation's interests ahead of his own, and has erred on the side of personally paying for his own Wikimedia-related expenditures, rather than the reverse.
But according to an email obtained by The AP, Florence Devouard expressed a different opinion to Wikimedia insiders.
"Get a grip!"
Talking to The Associated Press, Devouard said Wales had been "slow in submitting receipts". But The AP also obtained an email message Devouard sent to other board members in which she said she had convinced The AP that "the money story was a no story" and then chastised Wales for his stance on the steak house tab.
"I find (it) tiring to see how you are constantly trying to rewrite the past," she wrote to Wales in the message. "Get a grip!"
Meanwhile, Wales told the The AP: "The board, the current executive director, the previous executive director, and independent auditors have reviewed our books and publicly agree that all of my expenses were appropriate and fully accounted for."
The Foundation's 2007 fiscal year ended on June 30, and an audit was delayed several months following the departure of COO Carolyn Doran, who had a criminal record in three states when she was hired last January, including convictions for petty larceny and passing bad checks.
The audit was originally due for release in the early fall, but didn't arrive until last month. During Wikimedia's 2007 fiscal year, when Wales often used speaking engagements to promote his for-profit Wikia venture, Foundation travel expenses jumped from $140,000 to $264,000. But in an email to TechCrunch, Wales said that he paid for all his travel expenses out of his own pocket.
Last month, director of communications Jay Walsh told The Register: "Jimmy is scrupulous. He's extremely careful and frugal about the Foundation's resources. We do pay for travel for board members, for Wikimania and for Board meetings - so he's entitled to do so, but we don't have any records relating to his travel in that [fiscal year]."
Danny Wool worked for the Wikimedia Foundation from October 2005 to March 2007. He also told us that facilitating Wales' personal speaking engagements was a significant part of his job. "I was paid to coordinate his travel schedule and to negotiate his speaking fees," Wool said. "I was paid $40,000 a year - my take home was $2,500 a month - and 60 per cent of my time was spent negotiating Jimmy's personal speaking fees."
According to Wool, when Wales gave speeches, the fee typically went to Wales himself. ®