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 leaving in July, Carolyn Bothwell Doran, 45, had moved up from a bookkeeper for the Wikimedia Foundation to 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.
She was then on probation for a 2004 hit-and-run accident in Virginia for which she served 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.
Doran's attorney did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Her background was reported first on the Register, a London-based technology Web site. The Associated Press independently examined Doran's record.
The revelation comes as the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the volunteer-written Wikipedia and its sister Web encyclopedias in other languages, is staging a fund-raising drive and trying to expand.
The foundation said it had no indication that Doran did anything improper with donors' money.