Incident Report: Misappropriation of WordCamp Funds

A key element in the Community Team’s program is trust. Organisers are granted a high level of trust from the start – both in terms of responsibility with representing WordPress to their local community, as well as with their event finances. Despite the potential risks involved, in this program, we work from a place of trust rather than requiring everyone to prove themselves first.

A few months ago, the Community Team received an incident report alleging that a local WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more. organiser had been mishandling the funds that had been sent in the form of the Global Community Sponsorship Grant. A response team investigated, working with local community members, to discover more facts. In the end, based on the lead organiser’s inability to account for approximately US$ 7,000, the response team concluded that the organiser had used the funds for their own purposes. As a result of this, the WordCamp could not take place, and the following actions were taken to prevent further fraudulent behaviour by this person. 

Ultimately, the organiser who was responsible for the missing funds has been asked to pay back the money that they were unable to account for. If they do not follow the repayment schedule, the theft will be reported to local legal authorities. As a further result, this organiser has been asked to permanently refrain from taking part in any official WordPress event as a speaker, sponsor, organiser, or volunteer, and, for a 12-month period, from attending any official WordPress events. This decision’s severity reflects the finding that the organiser knowingly appropriated WordCamp funds for their personal use.

Going forward, members of the meetupMeetup Meetup groups are locally-organized groups that get together for face-to-face events on a regular basis (commonly once a month). Learn more about Meetups in our Meetup Organizer Handbook. group will be invited to apply to organise meetup events, with future WordCamp plans on hold until new organisers have gained some experience, and the community has recovered from this breach of trust. The meetup group will continue to function like normal and a WordCamp in the area will still be possible once the local community has found some stability.

This case may also change the way that Global Sponsorship Grants are administered and tracked in the future, to reduce future financial risk to the central organization. 

Hugh Lashbrooke and Rocio Valdivia lead the response team on this case, with support and oversight from Andrea Middleton, and a great deal of assistance from local community members who will not be named here in order to preserve the confidentiality of the case and protect them from any direct reprisals. Thank you to all the deputiesDeputy Community Deputies are a team of people all over the world who review WordCamp and Meetup applications, interview lead organizers, and generally keep things moving at WordCamp Central. Find more about deputies in our Community Deputy Handbook. and community members who took time to assist with this investigation and to help the team come to a reasonable outcome that protects the local community while continuing to foster the growth that we are all working towards.