The alleged comments that got SAIF CEO John Plotkin fired last month were recently made available to me, and if accurate they only bring additional incredulity to the entire affair. Plotkin, who was let go for “making inappropriate comments” to employees after just 3 months on the job, was terminated with such speed and absence of due process that one would think he was a heavily armed, fanny grabbing, nipple twisting drunk.

The alleged comments, however, which were largely never revealed to him during the termination, give a different impression altogether. Frankly, Tinkerbell wouldn’t blush at these remarks. Someone, somewhere should be highly embarrassed, and it ain’t John Plotkin.

The first, which had already been revealed, was Plotkin’s comment to “Speak English, not actuary”. Plotkin apparently made this comment to a group of executives and actuaries. The initial allegation, however, was that he made this to a “single person of color”.

Let us assume for a moment that the allegation, that John Plotkin said “Speak English, not actuary” to a “single person of color” is absolutely true.

So what?

That comment is not offensive. It is simply advising a person of high skill and education to speak in a manner that the masses can understand. Instead, I find the entire notion – that a “person of color” must be treated with a different standard, or should not be given constructive advice – offensive on its face, and frankly a bit racist. It is a ridiculous charge. And the fact an entire board was convinced to terminate a man based on it was a travesty. They should all be ashamed.

The next “inappropriate” comment is my personal favorite. Apparently Plotkin was looking to relax the dress code at SAIF, and he made the statement that he felt everyone was mature enough to decide when to wear casual vs. business dress and did not need designated casual days. He apparently received some push back from one of his executives on this, who believed some people don’t have good judgment.  Plotkin responded to this by saying those individuals should be addressed separately and their behavior should not penalize everyone. He said – and this is it; the big, hairy, offensive comment – he “did not think we should make the organization like 6th grade PE where they check to see if you were wearing your jock strap.”

Oh, that little rapscallion. Someone is going to get his mouth washed out with soap for that one….

Seriously, if someone took offense at the jock strap comment, I would suggest Plotkin’s concern of being in 6th grade PE was misplaced. It was more like he was in nursery school; he just didn’t know it at the time.

There was also a comment attributed to Plotkin’s dog, which he brought to the SAIF offices as part of an April Fool’s program. After having the dog in the office for the day of pictures, arranged by SAIF’s communications team, one other employee had a dog there.  Both Plotkin and she were in the courtyard. The employee asked if his dog was friendly. Plotkin apparently told the employee “Yes, sometimes too friendly”. He then advised her that she better keep her dog away as “Our dog is a humper and is attracted to black dogs”. The allegation made to the board allegedly changed that comment to “My dog humps” and “My dog likes black dogs”.

I'm surprised that wasn't changed to “My dog likes dogs of color”.

And lastly, the most serious charge, bearing in mind that serious is relative here and Plotkin denies the charge, is that he used the word “tit’s” while talking with the former SAIF CEO during their transition phase.

This, if true, is apparently a horrendous act. I had no idea Sharia law was in effect at SAIF. 

Plotkin claims the actual conversation was about a recent trip to a goat farm where he and his wife learned how to make goat cheese. Plotkin claims he said “We first had to milk goat teats”. While this is certainly a “he said, she said” situation, I will personally lean to the Plotkin version given the weight and credibility of the other accusations. You can believe whatever you want.

Clearly there are some very sensitive people at SAIF. I suspect, under these tight standards, most executives in our industry wouldn't last there. I'd last about 2 seconds, probably being terminated as I arrived in the parking lot on my first day.

There is obviously more to this story than the alleged comments we see here. The SAIF telephone logs, which I will cover in more detail next week, draw a very interesting picture about who was speaking to whom while this melodrama unfolded. They certainly lend some credibility to what SAIF employees have been telling us all along.

It is a shame that Governor Kitzhaber has not intervened to investigate this entire ordeal. His office could clarify and resolve this in fairly short order if it wanted to. The ball is most definitively in his court, which is a good thing, as from my perspective they have a true shortage of balls there at the moment. Instead, the Oregon press is awakening to the story, interviews are being conducted and more public records requests are being made. This story appears to be destined to remain a public and embarrassing slugfest, but that’s a good thing, as it is one that that surely needs the light of day cast upon it.

I mean, they have to be kidding, right?


For a list of Bob’s other SAIF/Plotkin articles (as well as a couple old AASCIF articles that get picked up in the search), Click here.

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