A looming 60 day statute of limitations appears to have prompted the filing of what is no doubt the first of several complaints regarding the SAIF termination of former CEO John Plotkin. Plotkin's attorneys Monday filed a motion for injunctive relief with the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon, Marion County, seeking to void the decision made by the SAIF Board of Directors as well as the recovery of attorney's fees and expenses incurred by Plotkin.
Plotkin alleges that the board of directors violated Oregon's Open Public Meeting Laws through a series of electronic communications, both directly and through intermediaries, when making the decision to terminate his employment. He is asking the court to void that decision and restore him to his position as CEO of the Oregon Insurer.
It is a brilliant legal maneuver. Anyone who has read the minutes of the May 9th meeting where the “decision” was made to terminate Plotkin would realize his termination was a foregone conclusion – a fait accompli if you will. As Plotkin points out in his complaint, one of the items on that meeting agenda was selecting his temporary replacement. Kind of leads one to believe the fix was in. Someone had to be talking with somebody to make that come to fruition. And it does not appear they pulled it off in the shiningly transparent light of public scrutiny.
Emails published previously between SAIF's Chris Davie and Ryan Fleming show the issue was decided a week before the meeting, when they crafted a message to John Gilkey informing him he had been tapped for the job – a job that technically would not be “open” for another 7 days.
The other interesting tidbit in this complaint (available here) is this: If Plotkin is successful in proving that the four Board members willfully violated the state's open meeting laws, they may be personally liable for any damages awarded in the case. There is compelling evidence to support that contention. All of this activity, which we now know to have been based on flawed and inaccurate information, could end up being very expensive for the people on this Board.
How different things would be if people had simply done the job they were supposed to do.
This complaint sheds a bit more light on just how screwed up this operation was, and how the Board appears to have been in far over its head on this. It has been widely reported that following the May 3, 2014 phone call from Board Chair Cathy Travis demanding his resignation, Plotkin was “home stationed”, and his access to the SAIF network was terminated by Ryan Fleming. What was not known, however, was that John Plotkin sent an email on May 6th informing the Board that SAIF's own by-laws did not allow them “to delegate to Mr. Fleming the authority to suspend the CEO's responsibilities without a vote at a public meeting”. After that email his access rights were magically restored.
That's great. The guy you are firing has to tell you how to do it. They should have brought him in much sooner on this. It would've saved everyone a ton of time, and prevented a major headache. It is pretty obvious at this point no one else knew what they were doing.
Is it just me, or do we all hear circus music playing in our heads? There has been no word if the Board showed up at the May 9th meeting in a tiny little car.
The complaint makes it clear that further claims for damages will soon be in order. However, it seems to me that Plotkin has given everyone involved a bit of an out here, if they are smart enough to take it.
The guy wants his job back, and is only asking for what is his due. He is asking to have the decision reversed, to be restored as CEO, be paid lost wages and benefits, and to have the legal fees he has incurred paid.
And since it appears he did nothing to deserve the termination it seems the right thing to do.
Easy Peasey. A veritable bargain. No matter what their original intent was, all the Board has to do is claim they were duped by misguided underlings and a sloppy and careless investigation. They vote to reverse their decision and restore John Plotkin.
Then they all resign. I mean, honestly, after watching the way this was handled, do we really think these are the right people to oversee a multi-billion dollar corporation?
By the way, this same scenario could play out for Governor Kitzhaber, whose office signed off on Plotkins termination. All the Governor has to do is claim he was duped by misguided underlings and a sloppy and careless investigation. He orders them to reverse their decision and restore John Plotkin.
Then he fires them. I mean, honestly, after watching the way this was handled, do we really think these are the right people to oversee a multi-billion dollar corporation?
They say that timing is everything. That certainly may prove to be the case here. From this complaint we learn that this case not only hinges on “what the board decided”, but also as much on “when the board decided it”.
As a commenter on a recent SAIF story so aptly stated, Oh, what a tangled web we weave….
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.