State Seeks to Learn from Mistakes for New PEBB/OEBB Director

Veteran staffer Ali Hassoun took over June 1 as interim administrator of the Oregon Educators Benefit Board and the Public Employee Benefit Board.

The joint administrator for the Public Employee Benefit Board and the Oregon Educators Benefit Board, Kathy Loretz, has stepped down and state officials say they are determined to fill the void she left while avoiding errant hires of the past.

 

“We’ve tightened up the process of vetting any candidates,” said Geoff Brown, the chairman of the OEBB board. Brown said he and PEBB chairman Shaun Parkman met with human resource officials at the Oregon Health Authority in February to offer their input into Loretz’s replacement.

 

Brown said they clarified the job description to make it clear that any joint administrator would share leadership responsibilities with the board, hoping to avoid candidates that might see their work administering health plans for teachers and state employees as a pedestal.

 

OEBB conducted a nationwide search for a new director in 2015, settling on Jim Raussen, a former Ohio state legislator. But the Oregon Health Authority had not screened Raussen’s history of ethics violations and questionable connections until an article was published in The Lund Report.

 

An OHA official said it would’ve been unethical to search his background on Google.

 

Raussen was dismissed after less than a year after a pattern of misconduct. He made derogatory comments about the OEBB staff, used state vehicles for personal entertainment and got caught doing the same thing that’d caused him trouble in Ohio -- accepting sports tickets for less than their free-market cost.

 

For now, longtime staff member Ali Hassoun has been designated the interim administrator. He could be a candidate for the permanent position, but said that he needed time to get a feel for the level of responsibility before he decided if he wanted the job long-term.

 

The search for a new administrator is open-ended. OHA has posted the opening, but Hassoun said it could be six weeks or it could be six months before they call back any applicants.

 

Hassoun is well-regarded by board members and Brown said OHA could take its time to fill the post with him at the helm. “There’s no hurry,” Brown said.

 

Loretz had been the head of both OEBB and PEBB since late 2016 when Raussen left. She had a longer history with PEBB as a deputy administrator and had served as top administrator of that benefit board since 2015.

 

Reach Chris Gray at chris@thelundreport.org.