Today Marion County Circuit Court Judge Claudia Burton did something that no one in Oregon has been able or willing to do for John Plotkin since he was terminated as CEO of SAIF Corporation. She gave him justice. Let me say that again: SHE GAVE HIM JUSTICE. Issuing a summary judgement in the case of Plotkin v. SAIF, she determined that SAIF, through its Board of Directors, committed two violations of Oregon’s Open Meeting laws. Citing existing statute, the only available remedy was to void the illegal decision and – wait for it…. restore John Plotkin as CEO of SAIF Corporation.
Plotkin, who had only been on the job 3 months, was terminated on May 9, 2014, during a hastily assembled board meeting. The reasons he was terminated have been well documented here. None of those reasons could withstand the heat of scrutiny cast upon them, and it quickly became apparent that he had been unfairly maligned, and improperly terminated. Plotkin was overthrown in what resembled a third world coup, with soldiers scaling the walls of the palace while he was (literally) out of town. Today’s court ruling confirms what many of us had long suspected; the decision to terminate him was an inside job, determined improperly in the dark shadows of private conversations and closed door meetings.
The court found that the board violated the law with their May 2nd private polling to see who would support Plotkin’s termination. The second violation occurred May 9th, during a closed Executive Session prior to the previously cited public meeting. The court determined that the board had illegally discussed the situation in that closed session.
This is mostly speculation on my part, but there are several hurdles yet to cross in this case. Plotkins attorney, Dana Sullivan, must file the final judgement with the courts and get a signature from the judge. Once made official, SAIF will have up to 30 days to appeal the decision, and if they do we are likely back to another long slog enduring the craggy wheels of justice.
And, of course, that brings us to the biggest unknowns of all. In a couple days SAIF Corporation will have two CEO’s on their roster. Kerry Barnett was placed in the role in May of 2015, one year after Plotkin was terminated. To be clear, Barnett was not with SAIF prior to assuming this position, and had nothing to do with the termination of John Plotkin. Still, it may be awkward to have to flip a coin to see who is going to get his parking spot.
I would expect, as much as some SAIF employees would love to see it, that John Plotkin will not physically return to SAIF Corporation. From this ruling he will be owed back pay, benefits, potential bonuses, 401K and other lost incentives for the entire period he has been gone; almost 3 years at this point. Additionally, all his legal expenses incurred since his termination must be paid by SAIF. It is a decision mandated cost that I expect easily passes into the 7-digit realm for the company. In addition to that, they may have to make him an exit offer, and terminate him all over again.
Lord, let us pray they get it right this time.
This is only speculation by a rank amateur. Anything could happen. Plotkin could decide he wishes to stay on at the company, and then the board will have to decide what path they need to take. I can’t imagine Mr. Barnett is the happiest guy with this particular decision. Maybe they’ll have Co-CEO’s, and have to create two reserved parking spots. I really do not know.
One thing is certain, however. John Plotkin is whole again. I understand the judge was extremely harsh on SAIF and DOJ for their behavior during this entire sordid affair. While there will not be a written decision coming down from the bench, there is a publicly available audio recording that I will be able to get my hands on.
I can’t wait for that. I just can’t wait.
In the interim, we pause to congratulate John Plotkin, CEO of SAIF Corporation, and his family for fighting the good fight. His attorney, Dana Sullivan, of Buchanan Angeli Altschul & Sullivan LLP should also be commended for a job well done. This was not an easy case, and she, in my humble opinion, achieved the best possible result for her client.
I for one could not be more thrilled. And I know I’m not alone.