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Wikimedia Foundation: Jimmy Wales 'absolutely' not out

Valleywag reports that the Wikipedia founder was out at the foundation that runs the Web-based encyclopedia, but the foundation strongly disputes it.

Updated January4 at 3:04 p.m.: This story has been changed to correct the number of members of the Wikimedia Foundation's board.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is "absolutely" not out of a job at the Wikimedia Foundation, according to the foundation's director of communications.

On Saturday, Valleywag editor Owen Thomas reported that Wales was "out of a job," writing, "Imagine an online encylopedia anyone can edit -- and no one can run. Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's...cofounder, is no longer a board member of the site's nonprofit foundation. Who's in charge here?"

It was reported Saturday that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is no longer on the board of the Wikimedia Foundation. But the director of the board said the report was not true. Wikimedia Foundation

The Valleywag report didn't cite any sources saying that Wales was no longer on the foundation's board, though it did point out that Wales' seat on the board--along with those of two others--had expired on December 31, 2008.

But in an e-mail to CNET News, Sue Gardner, the director of the foundation, wrote, "(t)here's nothing to it. Jimmy is a much-valued board member of the Wikimedia Foundation, and I expect he will hold that role permanently: I know of no reason for anyone to speculate otherwise."

In addition, Jay Walsh, the foundation's director of communications, said that Wales is "absolutely" still a member of the board and that he, along with the two other members, had been "unanimously" confirmed for another term on the board.

Wales' official position is Community Founder Trustee. According to Walsh, the Wikimedia Foundation's board decided that rather than make Wales' appointment infinite, or indefinite, it would allow his seat to come up for re-appointment at the end of each term, giving Wales a way to bow out if he needed to do so for any reason.

"I don't foresee any (time) in the near future where he wouldn't continue in that position he holds," Walsh said.

Indeed, in an e-mail sent on December 28, 2008, to the Wikimedia Foundation's e-mail list, board chair Michael Snow wrote, among other things, "We...had a unanimous vote to re-appoint Jimmy Wales to his position as Community Founder Trustee."

Wales did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Valleywag's Thomas.

Last April, the foundation re-organized its board, formalizing Wales' position as the Community Founder Trustee, and setting forth its current structure, in which the board is intended to be comprised of 10 members, including Wales, three community-elected seats, four "specific expertise" seats, and two chapter seats.

As of right now, the board has just seven members and is still looking for three more, said Walsh.