The SAIF Board of Directors met yesterday in Salem, and to say they rolled out the welcome mat for unhappy employees would be a complete misrepresentation of what I am told occurred. The meeting was held in a room that would only accommodate 60 people, and only around 20 of them were made available for SAIF employees. I have heard that many employees watched the proceedings via webcast.

I have two things to note from this meeting. First, two employees rose and spoke on behalf of all SAIF employees, explaining that many, not a few, were angered by what had happened with John Plotkin, and also to inquire about what investigation is being conducted by SAIF regarding the handling of Plotkin's termination. The sad, pitiful, useless response they received was one we should have expected, given previous behavior of this board. Outgoing Chair Cathy Travis told them that they were only accepting public comments, and they would provide no answers at the meeting. She also cited the pending litigation from Plotkin's termination, saying they would not comment on the matter.

However, to me, this was to be expected. Nothing shocking here. No, the truly shocking moment  was an unconfirmed report of a comment made by a Board member during the meeting. I am told Krishna Balasubramani, in addressing a committee for their report on possible dividend declaration, thanked them for writing a report that was understandable to those who “didn't go to actuary school”.

Really? You mean they “spoke english, not actuary”?

People following this story will remember that it was Balasubramani who strongly questioned John Plotkin at the meeting in which he was fired about the now famous “speak English, not actuary” comment. Balasubramani spoke of holding the CEO to a “higher standard”, and indicated that the comment to a “person of color” could have been improperly perceived by others. 

I’ve only heard about the Balasubramani comment from one source, who I consider extremely reliable. Without context, there is nothing wrong with what he apparently said, however, within the context of recent months, the “optics” it creates are terrible. It is salt in an open wound for many of the employees watching the proceedings. Of course, this Board has demonstrated previously it has trouble grappling with proper context, so I suppose I should not be surprised. 

Maybe the committee was all white, so it was ok. Either that, or John Plotkin was the only person at SAIF ever held to any standard, let alone a higher one.

The question, of course, is why would someone say such a thing on the heels of a controversy related to a similar comment?

I found myself pondering another significant question related to SAIF standards today with the confirmation that the Oregon DOJ has indeed denied former CEO Brenda Rocklin financial support for her defense in the lawsuit filed by John Plotkin. The letter sent from DOJ to Rocklin's attorneys, available in the attachment box to the right of this article, explains that DOJ conducted a thorough investigation of Rocklin's claims, and found that Rocklin is “not entitled to defense or indemnity” from the state.

My question is related to details revealed in the DOJ investigation. They inform Rocklin's attorneys that they interviewed several people, including Rocklin, Cathy Travis, Ryan Fleming and Chris Davie. They reveal that Ryan Fleming was the one to contact Rocklin about “problems” with the new CEO. Rocklin then arranged a call with former SAIF employee Colleen Sealock, and the “three discussed options” related to handling the alleged performance and behavior issues of John Plotkin. After that call Fleming allegedly decided to take the issue to the board, rather than having them [Rocklin and Sealock] involved.

Now, years ago, before I started, I worked in Human Resources for a large multinational software company. I can tell you that as an HR professional I was strictly prohibited by both law and policy from discussing any employees performance or personal issues with anyone other than HR reps, the employees supervisor and the employee themselves. So the question is, what was a Vice President of Human Resources doing discussing confidential performance information about a SAIF employee with people who did not work for SAIF, and had no business knowing about those issues? What are SAIF's confidentiality policies, and what is in place to protect their employees?

I would suggest that since Fleming continues in the position and has apparently not been the recipient of any disciplinary action, that SAIF must not have those policies. They must not think that confidentiality is important. Apparently anyone can talk about anything there, and it is a-ok. 

And of course, they must not have to follow appropriate labor laws.

Or more likely, the DOJ interviews simply verify what we already knew. Plotkin got screwed, rules were broken, and current SAIF leadership, including the Board of Directors, isn't going to do a damn thing about it. 

And of course the final question is, “Why?”


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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