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.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who is on Wikimedia's board, said he did not expect to find anything amiss but would personally cover any losses that turned up.