Fired Oregon Workers’ Comp CEO Plans to Sue

July 7, 2014

The man fired as leader of Oregon’s workers compensation agency after just three months on the job has filed notice that he plans to sue over his ouster.

John Plotkin alleges his predecessor at SAIF Corp. wanted the CEO job back, or wanted continued influence, and worked with executives still at the agency to get him removed, the Salem Statesman Journal reported.

After Plotkin refused to resign, SAIF’s board of directors fired him six days later in May.

Records that journalists obtained afterward showed the board determined he made racially and sexually insensitive remarks. Plotkin has disputed the charges, saying his comments were misconstrued.

Meanwhile, The Oregonian reports that newly released public records show at least four employees say their words were twisted or used inaccurately to build a case against Plotkin.

One employee disputed the notes a SAIF vice president took on comments from Plotkin about his bulldog’s attraction to black dogs. Agency event planner Erika Meier said the notes were inaccurate and taken out of context, and that Plotkin’s remarks were not offensive.

The agency declined to comment. The former CEO, Brenda Rocklin, didn’t return a call placed to the number attributed to her in public records.

Plotkin moved from Colorado for the job, which paid $320,000 a year. A career trial lawyer, he said he was asked to interview for the Oregon job at a time when he’d stepped in to be interim CEO for Pinnacol Assurance, Colorado’s version of SAIF.

“SAIF needs to act quickly to address the serious harm that they’ve caused both to me and to the organization,” Plotkin said in a statement Tuesday. “One way for them to do that would be to give me my job back so that I can continue on with the positive changes that I was implementing.”

Alternatively, he said, he wants his name cleared, an apology and unspecified financial compensation.

Plotkin contends he never heard objections about his comments until Chairwoman Cathy Travis called him on a Saturday morning to tell him the board wanted his resignation. He refused.

SAIF stands for “State Accident Insurance Fund.” It is a state-chartered nonprofit. There are five board positions, appointed by the governor.

The board checked with Gov. John Kitzhaber’s office before moving against Plotkin.

The day before Plotkin was fired, Kitzhaber’s chief of staff, Mike Bonetto sent an email to the board saying the governor has a “zero-tolerance policy for workplace harassment of any kind.”

“It is our expectation that any verified allegations of this nature will be handled promptly and with appropriate action,” the email said.

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