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SAIF’s firing of its CEO – something just isn’t right here.

Got an email from a reader late yesterday about the sudden (as in instant) firing of SAIF’s new CEO.  On the job for three months, John Plotkin got a call Saturday (after he and the VP of Legal Affairs returned from a business trip) from the Board Chair telling him he had till 3 pm the next day to resign.  

Plotkin was given no reason for the decision, however we have learned there were a series of employee complaints that he had made “inappropriate comments” to several employees.  Among the “inappropriate comments” was a statement encouraging an employee to “speak English, not actuary.”  Several complaints referenced his dog, evidently brought to the office on April Fool’s Day as part of “bring your dog to work day”, a corporate April Fool’s event.

Ok, this is weird.  A phone call  – on a Saturday – telling you you’ve got 24 hours to quit or else, and you aren’t told why.  Later you find out the decision bas based on comments encouraging people to talk in language people can understand, and references to one’s canine.  You’re never given a copy of the complaints or been allowed to respond to them.

It gets even stranger.  Evidently SAIF employees are none too happy about the decision.  Several hundred showed up at a Board meeting last Wednesday to voice their displeasure about the firing – after an initial Board meeting earlier in the week was cancelled when a hundred showed up.

Clearly SAIF’s employees like the guy, even if he does have a bulldog and wants actuaries to speak English (so non-actuaries can understand them).

Then it comes out that none (as in zero) of the complaints were ever investigated.  And, HR processes were never followed.  And, you’d been told just two weeks earlier by the Board Chair you were DOING ALL THE RIGHT THINGS AND THAT YOU WERE SO PLEASED THAT THE BOARD HAD MADE THE RIGHT DECISION (from Plotkin’s address to the Board meeting).

I don’t know Plotkin, or SAIF, or much about this series of events, but what I do know is appalling.

There’s much more to this story and we can only hope it comes out quickly and fully.  Unfortunately, SAIF’s employees, policyholders, and claimants are going to be hurt by a precipitate decision based on innuendo and rumor.

What does this mean to you?

If a headhunter calls about the SAIF CEO job, RUN AWAY.


10 thoughts on “SAIF’s firing of its CEO – something just isn’t right here.”

  1. The employees are hurting in a major way. This was masterminded by a couple narrow minded people afraid of change and of losing power and control.

  2. This was about preserving Rocklin’s legacy which was more important to the board than showing respect to Plotkin. This helps us understand why the board loved Rocklin for so long. Arrogant first stage decision makers don’t consider the future consequences of their actions. The board under-estimated the reaction of SAIF employees the same way we all grew weary of Rocklin’s clumsy damage control efforts following her bizarre decisions.

  3. In my career I have worked with many executives. I have never seen one create a sense of optimism and trust, which had been lacking for obvious reasons, in such as short time. He is a true leader, one people follow not out of fear, but because he has a compelling vision for a better future and great personal integrity.

    John Plokin’s best days lie ahead of him. He will be a tremendous asset to his next employer, who will no doubt consider the source of this slander and defamation against him. All employees, save the few involved in the coup, are deeply saddened by this grave injustice.

    The operation conducted against him be two of our VPs, and our former CEO, will be revealed in time. For two of the individuals with law licenses who set out to ruin a man’s character, the state bar should pull their ticket. For the other, who will be entirely discredited, good luck on finding future employment. Our CEO let it be known to many that resigning was the worst decision of her life. And then the plan was hatched to bring her back. One VP involved was visiting her nightly to report on what had happened that day at SAIF, and no doubt develop the plan. There is much more information available, and the cabals were not as careful hiding their tracks as they thought.

    Meanwhile the SAIF brand is severely damaged, as are the vast majority of employees who live our mission of trying to help injured workers and help employers. And it will be for years. When the real investigation starts, good luck with recruiting new employees.

  4. Integrity, Innovator, Involved, Leader, Collaborator. There really aren’t enough words to describe John Plotkin but he fits all the above characteristics. We at Pinnacol had the pleasure of having John as our interim CEO. We all wished he could keep the CEO job but since he was on the Board it was a conflict. Here in CO we follow protocols and procedures. John is kind, humorous and thoughtful. He would NEVER do or say anything to hurt anyone. SAIF should be ashamed of treating him (or any human) the way you have. What a black eye for OR. We hope he comes back to CO!

  5. As a SAIF employee, I would like to offer our humblest apologies to Mr. Plotkin. I am deeply saddened, outraged and frankly pissed (sorry… Not many other words will pacify me right now). As far as complaining about his dog….really??? Those who did most definately DID NOT have the guts, let alone curtesy to address them face to face. His dog was well behaved, sweet and I LOVED the idea. If someone had a problem, shouldn’t he have had the opportunity to correct the problem?
    As a corporation who boasts of integrity and fairness, they certainally did not show that compassion or respect to a man that was recruited by SAIF. The behavior demonstrated by 2 disgruntled VP’s (who should of left with Ms. Rocklin) contradictes what SAIF reportedly stands for.
    Literally makes me want to vomit.

    Lest you think that there are a few individuals that are upset, do not be fooled….there are hundreds. Hundreds that stood behind him. Enough so, that we are now being told to shut up, the new CEO has had enough. Oh but why? You like to do things in secret. I cannot imagine what this man could of done…and really, couldn’t he had an opportunity to fix a problem? He didn’t even have a chance. This whole thing has made me sick, and really question if I want to work for snakes who have risen to the top.
    I am not leaving my name. I unfortunately can’t afford to be publicly humiliated, and loose my job. Bet your $$$’s I’m looking elsewhere.

  6. Thanks for posting this, and including the whole story. The local paper didn’t bother to mention the standing ovation and obvious support Mr. Plotkin received from the employees who attended. Nor did the reporter bother do any research into the odd timing and lack of procedure throughout the entire incident. SAIF employees are none too happy with this travesty, and it appears the board and EC are scrambling to cover their tails.

  7. Sadly, this is typical of how SAIF operates. Management has long engaged in making innocuous comments into grounds for disciplinary action. Still, the arrogance of thinking such ridiculous complaints could be parlayed into grounds for firing a CEO is a new low for a company with such a public profile. Certainly someone should have considered that this would be made public. I am proud of my former co-workers who did not stand by passively out of fear for their own jobs, but stood and made their voices heard. I hope that Mr. Plotkin has the courage to fight back against Saif as many of us former employees were unable to do. And I hope that the people of Oregon, who pay for SAIF to exist, will demand answers and a fair outcome to this farce. Leaving that place was the best thing that ever happened to me so best wishes to Mr. Plotkin, perhaps he is the person who could finally make SAIF a good place to work.

  8. Yes, please delve deeper into this malfeasance of a fiasco that is not only embarrassment to Saif employees but drags the name of John Plotkin through the mud. As the CEO for only 3 months his direction for SAIF was such an encouragement for employees. He was that breath of fresh air that poured into a stuffy old company led by cronies. I can’t even begin to count the number of employees will stand on behalf of John. I also wonder how many will rebel or resign.

    Our board members and those behind the the firing should all be canned. However, only our Governor can remove board members. Something more to delve into!

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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