Oregon Governor gets SAIF Report

February 17, 2005

The SAIF Corp. needs more diversity in its work force and better systems for awarding contracts and handling public records, according to an initial report by the interim president of the state-owned workers’ compensation insurance company.

Despite the shortcomings, Brenda Rocklin said SAIF is a “well-run company,” and she is taking steps to make it stronger.

The report delivered to Gov. Ted Kulongoski is part of a process aimed at revamping SAIF’s internal management practices and improving public confidence in the company.

In recent years, SAIF has been accused of improper lobbying activities, including the payment of more than $1 million to a consulting firm headed by former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt. SAIF was also held in contempt of court for failing to disclose public records in a dispute with an outside interest group.

Last November, voters defeated a ballot measure that would have dismantled SAIF. The ballot measure was largely financed by SAIF’s largest competitor for workers’ compensation insurance business in Oregon, Liberty Northwest Insurance Co.

Rocklin, in her report, cited a number of steps that have been taken since she took over the company last summer.

These include a new policy requiring the SAIF board to approve contracts for insurance with groups and trade associations, contracts for public relations and lobbying services, and all other contracts worth more than $500,000 or for more than three years.

Rocklin also said that SAIF plans to hire an internal auditor, has retained an outside firm to evaluate its compensation system and is continuing to revamp how it handles and stores e-mail and other public documents.

According to the report, SAIF’s 822 employees include 6.9 percent who are racial minorities and 2.6 percent who are disabled. Statewide agency statistics place racial minorities at 10.8 percent of the work force and 4.2 percent employees with disabilities.

“That is an area where we clearly have to do a better job,” Rocklin told the Senate General Government Committee.

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