Top Cover Oregon official refuses to discuss Lawson resignation

Top Cover Oregon official refuses to discuss Lawson resignation »Play Video
Interim Cover Oregon director Bruce Goldberg walks toward a hearing room in the Capitol Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. He refused to discuss the resignation of Carolyn Lawson, the IT expert who failed to build the state's online insurance exchange, with KATU News.

SALEM, Ore. -- Cover Oregon's top official refused on Friday to discuss the resignation of the woman responsible for building Oregon's health insurance exchange website.

Carolyn Lawson, who was in charge of the website's disasterous construction, accused agency officials of scripting her resignation letter and forcing her to stick to fake talking points in a January email to an Oregon Health Authority official uncovered by theOn Your Side Investigators. She also wrote that she was forced to leave under false pretenses in an email uncovered by the On Your Side Investigators.

Bruce Goldberg, now acting director of Cover Oregon, was Lawson's former boss at the OHA. He told the On Your Side Investigators on Friday he wasn't Lawson's boss at the time of her resignation,
and time and again said "personnel issues" prevented him from answering questions about the email accusations surrounding her departure from OHA.

"I think that people are going to say what they're going to say, and it's a personnel issue," Goldberg said.

Though Lawson publicly resigned in December for personal reasons. the emails tell a different story.

"I have done everything I have been asked to do," Lawson wrote in the email to OHA chief operating officer Suzanne Hoffman.

"I stuck to the talking points even though I protested ... that they were not accurate. I walked away quietly when asked to resign. I wrote the resignation letter per the script I was given."

The emails were dated Jan.19, one month after her resignation and more than three months after the site failed to launch as promised in what has become one of the worst exchange launches in the nation.

In her resignation letter, Lawson said she "experienced a family loss which has caused me to re-evaluate many things in my life including continuing to commute to Oregon while my family was in California."

The email also stated that Lawson was "disheartened" by Goldberg's claim that she and former Cover Oregon director Rocky King had deceptively led him to believe the website would be functional when she knew otherwise.

"That never happened," Lawson wrote in the email. "I provided all the information I had and never withheld anything."

Goldberg told the On Your Side Investigators in January that he'd been given assurances by Lawson that the website's problems would be mitigated in time for the launch.

He backtracked on Friday, denying he'd ever claimed he was misled by Lawson.
 
Goldberg said he felt Lawson's resignation would be "most appropriately handled by that third party review."

That third party review is led by Atlanta-based First Data. Gov. John Kitzhaber announced it in January.

During testimony before the Joint Committee on Legislative Audits, Information Management and Technology in Salem on Friday, the state said it has produced 2,500 documents and that First Data interviewed 67 people over the past three weeks, including officials from the governor's office, two state agencies, legislators, Cover Oregon and many of its vendors.
 
Though she wasn't on the original list of "key stakeholders" to be interviewed, KATU confirmed First Data interviewed Lawson and the governor this week.

A perceived lack of transparency led several lawmakers – including gubenatorial candidate Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point - to question the final report. The First Data contract stipulates there will be two versions of the report: one public and one not.

Matt Shelby, the spokesman for the Department of Administrative Services - the state agency overseeing the review - addressed those concerns and said there would only be one report made available to the public.
 
KATU also learned Friday there are no audio or video recordings of the First Data interviews.

"That decision was made based on conversations with our legal staff," Shelby said.

Sarah Miller, the deputy chief operating officer for Oregon who is overseeing First Data, told lawmakers that investigators looking into the failures with the Cover Oregon website have not been able to talk to six Oracle employees whom they've asked to interview.

Oracle, the primary contractor on the troubled technology, has made available one senior staffer who wasn't among the six that investigators asked to interview, Miller said.

She said Oracle has allowed questioning of its chief technology officer, who she said reports directly to the company's CEO, but she wasn't sure how involved he was in developing the technology.

The governor is expected to get a briefing on the report during the second week of March, at which time it will be delivered to the Department of Justice to review what information can be released publicly.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website: