In a letter addressed to SAIF employees dated today, August 25th, Oregon Governor John “I Seee Nuthhink” Kitzhaber has announced the appointment of 3 brand spanking new Board members for the embattled state insurer. If approved by the states Senate, they will replace outgoing Board Chair Cathy Travis and Vice Chair Robb Van Cleave. Current Board members Krishna Balasubramani and Kevin Jensen will remain, which is probably not as bad as it sounds. Someone is going to have to stick around and try to explain the mess they've made. It should be an interesting first meeting; “Why is there an angry mob here? And what's up with the torches and pitchforks?”

Frankly, it's about goddamned time. With the exception of one quick mention at a gubernatorial debate, some of us where concerned Kitzhaber didn't even know he had a state workers' comp insurance agency.

The three new members Kitzhaber has nominated are:

Maurice Rahming – Mr. Rahming is President of O’Neill Electric, Inc., of Portland. He has been a journeyman electrician, foreman and general foreman for more than 20 years and is a SAIF policyholder. Mr. Rahming is active on numerous boards and committees, including the Portland Fair Contracting Forum and the Oregon Department of Transportation Industry Leadership Committee.

Jeff Stone – Mr. Stone is Executive Director/CEO of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, based in Wilsonville, and is a SAIF policyholder. The Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) is a nonprofit trade association that represents nearly 900 individual nursery stock producers, retailers, landscapers and related companies serving the nursery and greenhouse industry. Prior to joining OAN, Mr. Stone worked as Chief of Staff to the Metro Council and as an advisor to U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood.

Jennifer Ulum – Ms. Ulum is Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for PeaceHealth system in Eugene, and will serve in the remaining “public member” position on the Board. Ms. Ulum has deep experience in communications and public policy issues, and her civic contributions include service on the boards of Oregon Public Broadcasting, United Way of Lane County, Eugene/Springfield.

I must note that these are probably fine people who have had nothing to do with the agency's internal issues surrounding the termination of CEO John Plotkin. They also appear to be people who are very successful in their respective fields. It is unfortunate that none of those fields appear to have anything to do with running an insurance company. This means that the entire SAIF Board will remain without any experienced insurance professionals. For the tail, this makes the dog much easier to wag.

In fact the only one who may come closest to understanding the internal workings of a carrier is a lawyer whose main profession is that of defending SAIF's competitors (and employers who use those competitors). I suppose we should not be surprised. After all, look what happened to the last new guy at SAIF who knew anything about the business.

At least the Guv got this done in time for his re-election.

I could be completely wrong on this. These new additions may come in, pay close attention, ask appropriate questions, learn what is needed and carefully act to correct the agency's issues. In other words, they may do what the prior one failed to do at all levels across the board. One can only hope on that. Here is a hint: There is some definite housecleaning due in Executive Council.

The Governors' letter, which purportedly was designed to give employees the first word on these nominations, says “I know events over the past few months have overshadowed the excellent work at SAIF and brought a level of uncertainty that has affected morale. I nominated these three individuals to move SAIF forward and to help return the focus to where it should be – on your important work and on the future.” This is an opening for SAIF personnel, and a chance to see if the Governor is willing to put his money where his mouth is – or the state's money at least. I don't know if these new people will be in place by the scheduled September 10, 2014 Board meeting, but SAIF people who have been unhappy with the treatment of Plotkin and the complete ignoring of their concerns should plan to show up and make their displeasure known.

The message should be simple: “Welcome new members. You want to move SAIF forward? Start by reversing the mistakes of your predecessors, because the only way truly forward from here is back to the path we briefly traveled.”

Oh, and “we handle workers' comp here. Let us know if you have any questions about how that works.”

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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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