Sue Gardner, the former pop-culture journalist now running Wikipedia, named Erik Möller as deputy director of the Wikimedia Foundation for a simple reason: to get him off the nonprofit's board. As a board member, Möller was her boss; now she is his. But the hire is coming back to haunt her. After Wikimedia COO Carolyn Doran was revealed to be a convicted felon last year, Gardner promised to conduct background checks on new employees. But one has to conclude she never bothered to Google Möller. If she had, wouldn't she have noticed his off-the-wall views on child sexuality?
Gardner has a difficult choice. Keeping Möller as an employee seems untenable; no respectable donor will want their money handled by someone who has conducted such distasteful philosophical hair-splitting about pedophilia, a subject on which the civilized world has an unqualified negative opinion.
Yet she hired Möller for a reason: To buy him off. Möller has never made any secret of his plan to profit from his work on Wikipedia, and getting on the payroll has realized that dream. For Gardner, it accomplished the goal of keeping her friends close, but her enemies closer; Möller is in the United States on a work visa, which Gardner controls. And getting him to resign as a director helped her move towards her goal of controlling the board.
Gardner has a choice: She can either admit that she was sloppy, and failed to check Möller's background. Or she can admit that she was conniving, appointing him to his job and hoping no one would notice. Either way, she looks weak. And that's the one thing she can't stand.
(Photo by Gerard Meijssen)