This really isn’t a comparison, because truth be told, there is no accurate comparison possible between the two sides of this story. I could have just as easily called this article “Of Heroes and Incompetent Men”, or even “Of Heroes and Incompetently Evil Men”. The preponderance of evidence related to the termination of former SAIF CEO John Plotkin tells us that the plot to oust him was either hatched from a scheme with highly nefarious intent, or was a completely bungled and improperly performed procedure. Either defense is a poor one. I can’t really say which it would be.

Well, I could, but my lawyers won’t let me.

And for the record, since Oregon apparently has so many people offended by even the hint of politically incorrect behavior, I will clarify that I employed a bit of literary license with my use of the word “men”. In this context it represents a more universal meaning, or mankind, if you will. That means the potentially evil and/or incompetent gal’s involved in this debacle are included too. Don’t get your panties in a wad thinking you were excluded.

Glad I clarified that. I am nothing if not sensitive to the mandates and demands of the politically correct.

I received a letter earlier this week authored by John Plotkin. It is an open address to the employees of SAIF, and I am honored to publish it here:

To SAIF Corporation Employees:

From the bottom of my heart I want to thank SAIF Corporation employees for their exemplary work, their devotion to the mission of caring for Oregon businesses and workers, whether or not injured, and their enormous integrity.  You are the very best that Oregon has to offer.  It saddens me that recent events and associated media reports have cast any negative light on you or in any way distracted you from your great work and service to Oregon. 

Regardless of what happens in the future I want to reiterate what I have said to you since I arrived in Oregon.  It has been an honor and privilege to serve as SAIF's President and CEO.  You make the world a better place.  Your support has touched me deeply.

With great respect and admiration,

John Plotkin

Plotkin's message gets right to the critical point. There are very committed, very dedicated and highly motivated people working at SAIF. They care about their company, they care about the job they do, and they care about the reputation they leave behind. They have, in a word, integrity.

They are the heroes of SAIF, pure and simple, and they know an egregious wrong when they see it.

I've noted in the past that it was the overwhelming response of these employees that kept me toiling on this topic; but it is not due to simply a few angry and disgruntled souls. No, there is something unique at SAIF, and it has taken some time to really wrap my mind around what is happening there.

There is an old saying that a “fish rots from the head down”. It is a reminder that an organization with unethical and dishonest leadership eventually will assume the poor personality traits of it's management. Poor business practices and unethical actions become common throughout the enterprise, as it ultimately reflects the morals and ethics of those who set the standards, agenda and direction of the company.

Yet at SAIF, where there are clearly people in leadership positions whose hands have long ago left the ethics tiller, we find the opposite occurring. While ethical standards appear to be in a complete shambles in some corners of the executive offices, you find, as you travel down into the ranks, that the moral compass of the company and the people deep inside that organization gets much, much stronger. It is a completely inverse relationship. This fish is only rotting at the head.

The sense of duty, the sense of dignity, the simple concept of right and wrong is so plainly absent amongst some in leadership, that those same leaders don't even know that they should be leaving. Other leaders within the company and at the state level appear completely incapable of doing the right thing as well. It is as remarkable as it is wrong.

And the people working for them know it.

They are actively engaging, despite their “leadership”, to right this wrong. They have lit up comment areas online. They have printed “I Stand With John Plotkin” buttons. They are wearing red at corporate events. They have even formed a petition, calling for the return of their CEO. I don’t know about you, but that is a first for me. It is a truly remarkable statement about both them and the man they want back. Their goal is 1,000 signatures to drop on the desk of Oregon’s absentee Governor. I personally thought, given the air of fear and retaliation at SAIF, that they would be lucky to garner 40 signatures. I was wrong. They have collected 475, almost halfway to that goal (You can support them by going to

Yet they continue the daily work. They manage the claims. They communicate with employers. They take pride in what they do, while shunning the pall of negative light cast upon them by souls with lesser character. The fact is the true leadership at SAIF right now is not in the Executive Council; it is not on the Board. The true leadership exists within the rank and file. They are the people who boldly print their names, calling for this mistake to be corrected. They are the people making buttons, and creating petitions. They are the people who know right from wrong, and refuse to accept the status quo any longer.

And they are, as John Plotkin points out, the people who are the very best that Oregon has to offer.

They are the heroes of SAIF, who deserve a simple moment in the sun and credit for all they do; despite the scandal not of their making that now dogs their every day. In the end there is no relative or competent comparison to those who would “first endeavor to deceive”. It's not even close. These heroes have had leadership thrust upon them by necessity, and they deserve better than what a few at the top are providing them. They need a resolution, and ultimately someone they believe in guiding the ship, but until that day arrives these sailors are doing all they can to keep it afloat and headed in the right direction. Time will tell if they are successful in their efforts.

Over the long haul, my money is on them.


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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