The former CEO of SAIF Corp., the state-owned workers' compensation insurer, won a bittersweet victory today.

The SAIF board voted to settle John Plotkin's wrongful dismissal claim for a whopping $1.7 million.

That vote came after a stinging rebuke last week in Marion County Circuit Court, where Judge Claudia Burton ruled that SAIF's decision to fire Plotkin in May 2014 after just three months on the job, was improper. The decision was first reported on a workers compensation blog.

Plotkin had come to Oregon to take the top job at SAIF after leading Colorado's state-owned workers' compensation insurer. But his desire to change SAIF's starchy culture offended an entrenched management team and members of that team worked with the board to get rid of Plotkin.

A differently constituted SAIF board today was forced to make amends.

Plotkin, who has moved to Arizona and resumed practicing law, says he is pleased with the terms of the settlement but wishes litigation had never been necessary.

"My preference was always to have done the job, not get paid not to do it," Plotkin says. "But this is a better outcome than we've achieved to date."

Litigation dragged on for more than two years.

"My lawyers, Dana Sullivan and Andrew Altschul, did a great job," Plotkin says. "It's not that often than one is able to prevail against the state."

Judge Burton last week ordered SAIF to reinstate Plotkin but that remedy was impractical since the agency had already hired a new CEO, Kerry Barnett.
"Today's settlement is a victory for John Plotkin and for all the SAIF employees who supported him and didn't want to see him fired," says Sullivan, one of Plotkin's attorneys. "And we all benefit from a decision that reaffirms the importance of government transparency and accountability."

A SAIF spokesman, Mike Watters confirmed the settlement in a statement:

"This afternoon the SAIF board of directors moved to resolve John Plotkin v. SAIF by offering a negotiated settlement of $1.7 million, to reflect back wages, benefits, and attorney fees," Watters said. "This is not an amount of money we take lightly, but we can assure our policyholders that this will not impact costs or service levels. We look forward to finally putting this behind us and continuing to focus on our mission to help injured workers and make Oregon the safest place to work."