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It's Good When The Truth Gets Out

Award Winning Story


More details about the terms and conditions of Janet Frank's contract with the State Compensation Insurance Fund are slowly coming out, but as is typical for State Fund the information is being revealed in a circuitous and piecemeal fashion that fails to give the public the whole picture.

As we reported a week ago, this publication begun testing State Fund's professed allegiance to transparency – a test it failed. With some pointed questions about the employment agreement that brought Frank to the State Fund president's office last fall State Fund proved it would reveal neither the details nor the contract itself. With the official channels silent, we turned to our sources. They revealed information about a previously undisclosed six-figure hiring bonus.

But it was never about the dollars of Frank's bonus. The issue was about whether SCIF was really walking the walk of transparency and adhering to its professed vow of openness, or just blowing so much more smoke to the legislature and a media that is too lazy to ask questions. So when Workers' Comp Executive published the information that SCIF was not releasing we also included some of our lingering questions that were still unanswered in the hopes that it would trigger a response.

It did.

SCIF Gave Us a Bronx Cheer... We Consider it an Award

State Fund on Friday answered many of the questions we asked. Not completely or candidly mind you, but they answered them. They did so by using our competitor Workcompcentral, which published the information yesterday. Providing answers to our competitor to the question we asked is supposed to, we assume, provide a lesson to us. It does. It tells us that if we do the job we're supposed to and ask the questions – somehow SCIF will find a way to put its own spin on the answers for someone else. But we succeed in the getting the facts – at least some of them -- to the people.

In its excitement over State Fund's overtures to it, WorkCompCentral unfortunately failed to ask some obvious questions and instead used confirmation of Frank's $450,000 annual salary at the top of its page. But the salary was no surprise; we brought you that news last April 9th. The salary was not and is not the issue. The issue is State Fund's continued intransigence.

Combined, our two pieces have shed new light on the scope of the compensation package for Frank and more importantly the current level of clouded transparency at State Fund.

But there is still much more to learn, both about Frank's terms of employment and State Fund's commitment to being open and transparent.

As we exposed, State Fund paid Frank a $139,750 bonus. While we said it was a hiring bonus State Funds portrayal spun it as money to "help her move to California" from Nevada as WCC reported. She still lives near Denver Colorado. But our sources insist it was a recruitment bonus.

If it is for moving and she didn't move then why has it not been repaid? She still has not moved here after 10 months on the job.

Additionally, we reported SCIF's board sought authorization to give her up to 60% of her first year salary as a hiring bonus. Does the reported 30% performance bonus noted in the WCC article constitute the remainder of this hiring bonus or is it a separate piece of her compensation package? And what will it take for her to earn this bonus?

Vargen says there is no contract. "Jan is under no employment agreement and serves at the pleasure of the board," Vargen told WCC. But the reality cannot be exactly as State Fund would have us believe.

Vargen is either misinformed or disingenuously reflecting SCIF's cloudy ways. Vargen also told WCC that Frank has a bonus plan that pays her up to 30% of her salary if she meets the board's performance based objectives. By the mere fact they set terms of employment, she has a contract ... what are the other terms of employment? We are asking for all the terms of Frank's employment. That's commonly known as a contract. A contract can be "at will" in California and "serves at the pleasure of the board" means at will.

State Fund will not still release her contract. There is no sunshine only spin. We are not going to go away until the full contract – the full agreement – the complete terms - are released. State Fund owes this to the legislature, to its policyholders, and to its employees.

We also reported on her weekly travel back and forth to her permanent home in Colorado and questioned who was on the hook for these expenses. Jan Frank personally told Dale Debber that she paid them herself. But we asked on the record and found out that is no longer the case. State Fund answered our question as well to WCC, confirming that State Fund's policyholders have indeed been paying for these expenses at least since July 1. They have not said whether Frank was reimbursed for expenses before that date.

State Fund also admitted by telling WCC that it is also paying for Frank's temporary housing expenses when she is in California. But there is no word as to whether there's a limit to these expenses that policyholder will have to shoulder, or whether she fly's first class or not.

We posed these questions and others listed below to State Fund this morning with no response. Keep your eyes peeled here--or somewhere else-- to find out if State Fund sticks to its modus operendi. But we're responsibly asking the questions and the truth is coming out—even if it is in dribs and drabs.

Here are some more questions we have asked State Fund:

What are the full terms and conditions of Janet Frank's employment agreement with the State Fund board of directors.

Does Janet Frank's contract/agreement/understanding with the Board permit her to work only 4 days a week in California?

Does she work regularly in Colorado and who pays the additional expenses if she does?

What will it take to earn that 30% performance bonus we've read about?

What specifically are her retirement benefits – are they the same as all state employees or is it a different package? How so?

When Mrs. Frank drives to the airport for those regular trips to Colorado does she or the state pay the parking tab? Does she have a driver?

Does she fly coach, business, or first class?

Exactly how much has State Fund spent on this personal travel and is there a limit?

Will she be refunding the advance for moving expenses, or was it really as we reported merely a hiring bonus?

SCIF said that travel reimbursement was covered as of July 1. Who paid prior to that? If Janet paid for the travel is she being reimbursed for expenses prior to that date?

Where is she living (proximate area) while in California and what is this costing the policyholders at State Fund? Did State Fund buy or lease the premises?

Is there a maximum amount of time until she is required to move to California?

The board was authorized to give a bonus of up to $270,000 – are there provisions for any additional recruitment/hiring bonus payouts?

Workers' Comp Executive, ISSN 1074-0988 Copyright © 2008 Providence Publications, LLC - All Rights Reserved.