Governor Kitzhaber, When Exactly is a Good a Time to Get Involved at SAIF?
Dear Governor Kitzhaber,
Sorry to bother you again. I had the opportunity Friday evening to watch the debate you participated in with your opponent, Dennis Richardson, earlier that day. I had a few observations, and some follow up questions for you.
First, I was greatly relieved to learn that you actually are aware of SAIF, your workers' compensation state owned insurance company. Prior to this debate we were concerned that you did not even know it existed, since you have never publicly uttered a word about it, failed to show for its 100 year anniversary, have not filled vacant board positions, and never met with it's CEO, your agency director. Failing to address the public lynching of that director with the use of false information and the possible violation of state open meeting laws by your appointed board also lends to this impression.
So when one of the panelists at the debate asked you about getting involved over the controversy of the firing of CEO John Plotkin, I was mightily impressed that you did not have to ask for a clarification.
However, your answer has prompted a few follow up questions for me. You stated that this "Was a conflict between the Board of Directors and the agency", and since operations were not being affected, you felt this was not a time for you to get involved.
I am, on one level, glad you entered politics, because an attitude like that would be less than effective for a practicing physician. "Well Edna, you have a baseball sized tumor in your brain, but since your heart is still beating, this is not the time to get involved". Of course, that conversation could only happen when Edna cornered you at the ranch, since it is pretty clear you would not have shown up for her appointment. But I digress....
So, my question is simply, if not now, when? If not you, who?
If you have an open vacancy on your Board of Directors that has languished for months on end, would that be a good time to get involved?
When two of your board members are well over their term limitations and need to be replaced, would that be the time?
When the board fires it's CEO after just 3 months, and it is revealed that they used false information and failed to follow any appropriate procedures in this action, thereby exposing your agency to massive liability and legal expenses, would that be a good time?
Or perhaps when it appears that your board violated open meeting laws, an act that in my state would be subject to criminal prosecution, would that be a time for a looksie?
When the rank and file are clearly upset and scared over the obvious political gamesmanship that is being played, would that be the time?
When it appears a former agency director may have violated state law by possibly manipulating the agency she used to run; how about then?
Or perhaps when it begins to be obvious that the management left in place after this debacle may not be capable of managing the situation? Now?
Clearly, and sadly, we already have our answer to these questions. It appears you cannot be bothered. Perhaps it is time for those of us concerned with this story to stop hoping for you to do the right thing. Perhaps it is time for us to look elsewhere for solutions. SAIF is a state agency that manages over four billion dollars of your employers money. It is too big and too important to ignore in what appears to be more and more a conspiratorial effort to remove an outsider who threatened the status quo.
Unfortunately I believe it is time for those impacted to contact federal investigators with their concerns about this mess. Employees and others with information and concern should probably be reaching out to US Attorneys or the FBI. It is fairly clear to me that your state is not capable of policing itself. Plotkin, in his first salvo in this legal battle, has made plausible accusations that your board violated state open meeting laws in the handling of this debacle. If his legal actions or subsequent investigations prove this to be correct, I would suggest citizen complaints to the Oregon State Bar would be in order. There are two attorneys on that board, and quite frankly, lawyers on boards that willingly violate the law probably shouldn't be lawyers anymore. After all, as one of those lawyers noted at Plotkins termination, if we are to have a "higher standard" for our CEO, we should also have one for the people who are his bosses.
And to be honest, Governor, we should have those standards for you as well.
The good news here, of course, is that it is not too late to fix this. John Plotkin has given everyone involved an easy out. He has filed suit asking to be reinstated and to have his legal expenses covered. Given what we now know from public records, it is a no brainer. Give him his job back and let the man finish what he started. To do so would be the simple acknowledgment of a mistake. To not do so, at this point, could be the harbinger of something much worse, that there is indeed something more sinister at play and for which federal authorities clearly need to be involved.
Fortunately, thanks to the myriad of issues you have had with your Cover Oregon program, they are already there. A trip to SAIF will be a short and easy addition for them.
From Bob's Cluttered Desk
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About "From Bob's Cluttered Desk"
Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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