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KATU Investigators

Retiring Cover Oregon manager fires off damning email about state leaders

Retiring Cover Oregon manager fires off damning email about state leaders

SALEM, Ore. -- Rotten. Absurd. Unworkable.

Those are just a few of the words in a damning email sent by a retiring Cover Oregon manager to all staff this week. Tom Jovick's email lashed out at Cover Oregon and state leaders for their disastrous handling of the state health insurance exchange, which is now so dysfunctional the $248 million project has been dumped in favor of the federal exchange.

Jovick, a Cover Oregon special projects manager who's worked at the agency since Nov. 1 2012, fired off the email on Wednesday, the same day he retired from Cover Oregon.

The On Your Side Investigators obtained the email from Cover Oregon Friday.

The email begins innocuously with Jovick writing, "I thought I'd give you a brief perspective, based on what I've seen here and where I've been before."

However, Jovick's very next line launches right into his frustrations at Cover Oregon: "I know you're all disgusted, resentful and angry. Who wouldn't be if subject to the same morass of excrement you all have had to tolerate."

By the third paragraph, Jovick lambasts Gov. John Kitzhaber and former Cover Oregon executive director Bruce Goldberg, who now acts as an adviser since resigning as the agency's chief in April. 

"(The governor) put Bruce in charge -- the one person, together with his OHA IT Director, who is most responsible for the completely unworkable and cockamamie system we received from Oracle and OHA," Jovick wrote.

The Oregon Health Authority, or OHA as it is commonly called, was responsible for shepherding the creation of Oregon's health insurance exchange project, which later became known as Cover Oregon. Carolyn Lawson, former chief information officer for the OHA and Department of Human Services (DHS), oversaw the bulk of the Cover Oregon website development. Lawson resigned in December after fumbling the project.

Control of the exchange project shifted to Cover Oregon in May 2013 - earlier than expected - because Lawson had burned through all of her funding: a $48 million 'early innovator' grant the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare services had awarded Oregon back in 2011.

Jovick's email goes on to say, "Bruce and his IT Director handed us one of the most rotten and absurd unworkable system applications imaginable. And they spent our federal funds doing it. Go figure!"

When the scale of the technology disaster became clear and the governor asked for resignations from two key Cover Oregon leaders, Jovick wrote "The Governor … effectively threw the entire staff under the bus.... The chairman of the Cover Oregon board lines up the rest of the board members in full support of it."

Jovick left no stone unturned. He also had choice words for Oracle, Cover Oregon's main software developer, the OHA, and OHA's spokeswoman Patty Wentz.

"Bruce brought Patty here to direct Communications, but she turned it into more of a propaganda ministry than a true communications department," Jovick continued. "Both of them proceeded to act with insulting, condescending, dismissive, intimidating, blaming, clandestine and generally nasty behavior toward a lot of staff."

The one Cover Oregon leader Jovick appeared to protect was Goldberg's predecessor, original Cover Oregon executive director Rocky King. King resigned in January citing medical reasons.

"The Governor, with the support of his health care and campaign advisors, trashed Rocky," Jovick wrote.

The second half of Jovick's email praises the hardworking employees at Cover Oregon who he wrote, "figured out how to make the impossible work successfully" with "professionalism, integrity, creativity, mutual support, and dedication."

Jovick wrote that working at Cover Oregon "is not a black mark" on his colleagues' resumes.

He encouraged his coworkers not to waste energy or "negative emotions" on "Bruce, Patty, the Governor and his staff, Oracle, and the board. ..."

The On Your Side Investigators reached out to every person and organization named in his email. All declined to comment. Wentz did not return messages.

KATU also tried reaching Jovick for comment but he did not return messages by Friday evening.


Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website:

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