Friday, December 21, 2007

Google This: Wiki Slipped a Mickey in COO's Criminal Past

As web powerhouse Google launches its own encyclopedia, "knol," the Wikimedia Foundation is batting clean-up after revelations about its recent chief operating officer, Carolyn Bothwell Doran. Doran, now in jail in Virginia for prior offenses, managed more than $1 million in donations to the parent organization of Wikipedia.

From a hit-and-run auto accident to shooting a boyfriend to kiting checks, Doran had a long history of trouble with the law. How she wound up as COO for Wikimedia is a cautionary tale. It's also an embarrassment for an internet resource founded to provide reference and information.

Already battling criticism over sometimes-chaotic Wiki entries, inaccurate information, and turf warfare among contributors, the scrappy company runs primarily through the services of volunteers. Faced with a need for cash, Wiki has been running a donations drive while keeping a wary eye on Google's recently-announced plans for a competitive reference resource.

The foundation that runs — and accepts donations for — the online encyclopedia Wikipedia neglected to do a basic background check before hiring a chief operating officer who had been convicted of theft, drunken driving and fleeing a car accident.

Before she left in July, Carolyn Bothwell Doran, 45, had moved up from a part-time bookkeeper for the Wikimedia Foundation and spent six months as chief operating officer, responsible for personnel and financial management.

In March, she signed the small nonprofit's tax return, which listed more than $1.3 million in donations.

At the time, she was on probation for a 2004 hit-and-run accident in Virginia that had landed her seven months in prison.

Doran had multiple drunken-driving convictions, and records show earlier run-ins for theft, writing bad checks and wounding her boyfriend with a gunshot to the chest.

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