I am headed out the door for a few days of vacation (more like a staycation, as the honeydo list is long and in need of attention), so this will be (for me) relatively short and to the point. There has been some interesting movement in the ongoing SAIF/John Plotkin saga this past week, including what I believe to be some pretty good news for the beleaguered employees in the trenches at that company.  

John Plotkin filed a series of documents in court last Friday in response to former SAIF CEO and defendant Brenda Rocklin's request to be released from the lawsuit brought as a result of his untimely termination. Rocklin has filed a motion asking to be removed from the suit claiming she was not involved in any significant way in Plotkin's firing.

The “Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendant Brenda Rocklin's Special Motion to Strike” (available here) is a jaunty 28 page read that essentially says, “Whoa, there, big fella! We believe she left a fact or two out of her motion”. The Response does an excellent job of portraying some of the facts surrounding the case, as well for the first time listing a plethora of specific phone calls between Rocklin and SAIF VP's Ryan Fleming and Chris Davie. These calls have been part of the public dialogue as the phone logs were part of an earlier records release. I've written about them, but this is the first time they have been published in extensive detail.

The Response alleges that these calls and several conversations were omitted from Rocklin's Motion to Strike.

There were two other documents filed Friday by Plotkin. One is a Declaration from John Plotkin in support of the Response (available here), and the other, which will be of tremendous interest to SAIF'ers following the story, is a Declaration by former Senior VP Mike Mueller (available here).

Mueller's Declaration is an interesting twist to this story. Mike Mueller was with SAIF from 2001 until 2012, serving as Vice President of Legal Services and eventually becoming Senior Vice President of Claims. In 2012 he advised the Board of Directors of some concerns he had about then CEO Brenda Rocklin. I have spoken to Mr. Mueller about his experiences during this time. It is a lengthy and detailed story, but there is not a need to rehash it here. Suffice it to say that an “independent” investigation was conducted, and Rocklin asked for his resignation shortly thereafter.

People who have been following the Plotkin story and have learned about the executive culture that existed at SAIF are probably not too terribly surprised.

What is significant, however, about Mr. Mueller's Declaration is how it counters a mainstay of Rocklin's position, that she was simply helping Ryan Fleming because he was not sure how to proceed with complaints about his CEO. Mueller explains that during the “independent” investigation initiated by the Oregon DOJ based on his complaints, Fleming was a key person in the line of communication and interview scheduling process. Mueller states that likewise, “individuals at DOJ assigned to help SAIF knew that Ryan Fleming was an individual with authority who could seek their advice on employment-related issues”.

Oh my, it seems that every time we turn around, someone somewhere has more splainin' to do.

These documents of course beg the question; if the Board of Directors had a previously established protocol regarding the handling of complaints about a CEO, and Ryan Fleming was familiar with and in fact key to that process, why was it denied to John Plotkin?  

That would be a great follow up question to the recent SAIF Executive Council statement where they talk about openness, honesty and “owning it”.

Now, on to the good news at SAIF: Two recently appointed board members made themselves available Tuesday to meet employees and hear their concerns. Jeff Stone and Jennifer Ulum spent at least an hour and a half with more than 80 employees who filled the room to meet them. (The meeting had been scheduled for a very small conference room, but was rescheduled to a much larger room for reasons unbeknownst to me )

I will go on the record as saying I am very, very impressed with what I am hearing about these two new board members. I sincerely hope their actions bode well for the future of the organization.

Several people have told me how impressed they were with the meeting and the quality of conversation from all parties involved. They found Stone and Ulum to be attentive and engaged, and appearing genuinely interested in what they had to say. But I wasn't there. I think it best I repost a comment made yesterday by one who attended, and posted this description on my blog (The only change made in this is the number of attendees. The poster initially said 60, then later emailed to indicate there were around 80 people at any given time, with people coming and going during the meeting. This has been confirmed by multiple sources):

Jeff Stone and Jenny Ulum thank you!

Bob they read your BLOG.

Today around 80 employees met with Jeff Stone and Jenny Ulum it was one of the most positive events that has happened at SAIF in several months.

Jeff and Jenny, walked around the room and introduced themselves to each person in the meeting at the time. Then they opened the conversation, note I used the word conversation by telling us they were only two because a third would make a quorum and a technical board meeting, this was to be a conversation.

They asked what we felt needed to happen for SAIF to move forward?

I hope others who attend this meeting will add their thoughts hear but let me discuss my take aways.

We as a group discussed fear at SAIF and how this feeling of pending dismissal or retaliatory actions could be reduced and eliminated. Eloquent comments were made by several attendees.

We as a group talked about trust and how our leadership and the board could regain that trust.

We discussed that the new board if they agree with our (majority of employees) findings in reading through the available transcripts, documents and DOJ statements that the firing of John Plotkin was a mistake then do what SAIF has always done admit our mistake, apologize, and heal the wounds in this case offer a settlement and/or re-employment. It is the right thing to do.

We discussed the absolute need for an investigation into the individual actions of Ryan Fleming in violating several SAIF Codes of Standard for continued employment at SAIF.
And that Ryan is not above the rules of employment for SAIF and must answer for his actions.

We discussed independent investigation of the John Plotkin situation and Ryan Fleming. Jenny asked an important question, If the investigations show the actions taken in the John Plotkin case and in the activities of Ryan Fleming proved to be correct would SAIF employees accept this. Yes, was the response to a transparent independent investigation into both the John Plotkin firing and the issues with Ryan Fleming and HR.

We discussed the development of an employee council to meet with the Executive Counsel and CEO to discuss employee issues.

During this conversation Jeff and Jenny would ask questions, clarify what they heard, they were engaged in the conversation and took notes! There was laughter and a feeling that these Board Members cared about SAIF employees!

We thanked Jeff and Jenny for meeting with us and having this open engaged dialog. We applauded them and this meeting. It was such a positive moment and bodes well for our future.

And there you have it. Very positive for the employees, and if they get follow through and closure, that will be even better for everyone.

I'll see you later next week. I have home projects ahead, so need to swing by the hardware store for a really big mallet.


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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