SAIF leader gets $200,000 bonus as board catches up to industry rates

The board of Salem-based SAIF Corp. has awarded a $200,000 bonus to the company’s president, aiming to shift compensation more in line with other insurers around the U.S.

Chip Terhune, who became SAIF president in July 2021, also got a 4% pay raise. That moves his base salary up to $540,800 and added a bonus for 2022 work of $223,333.

With the combined compensation of $764,133, Terhune makes about seven times what is paid to Gov. Tina Kotek.

“We are aware of the optics,” said Krishna Balasubramani, a SAIF board member who led its compensation committee. “He operates in kind of a private world, setting premiums, handling claims. He’s still a public servant.”

SAIF is a state-chartered company that is the largest provider of workers’ compensation insurance in Oregon, covering about 54,000 businesses. Its board is appointed by the governor.

SAIF officials said the pay adjustment for Terhune was based on an independent review of executive pay at comparable insurance companies.

The consultant’s report said Terhune’s 2022 pay was 13% lower than the average. The report said that other CEOs received a bonus equal to an average of 60% of their pay. The SAIF Board set Terhune’s new bonus at 40% of his pay.

Terhune was named SAIF president in July 2021. He was paid $217,949 in salary and a $76,282 for that partial year.

Balasubramani noted company operations are not funded by Oregon taxpayers.

Terhune came to the company from Medecision, a Texas-based health care technology company. He previously served as vice president for Cambia Health Solutions, public affairs director for Schnitzer Steel, and as an executive with the Oregon Education Association, the state teachers union. He earlier was chief of staff for Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

The compensation package was approved unanimously by the SAIF Board. Besides Balasubramani, directors are John Mohlis, a former union executive now with Gallatin Public Affairs in Portland; Tammy Baney, executive director of the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council in Bend; Johnell Bell, chief executive officer of the Portland public affairs company Espousal Strategies; and Hans Bernard, a government affairs director for Nike in Beaverton

Balasubramani said the board didn’t consider the financial performance of other companies in comparison to SAIF as it evaluated Terhune’s compensation.

SAIF reported an operating gain of $58.7 million for 2022 compared to a $47 million operating loss the year before.

He also said the board had not established performance measures for Terhune.

SAIF, headquartered in Salem, employs about 1,000. The company awarded employees merit raises averaging 3.7% for 2023, according to a company spokeswoman.

Les Zaitz is editor and CEO of Salem Reporter. He co-founded the news organization in 2018. He has been a journalist in Oregon for nearly 50 years in both daily and community newspapers and digital news services. He is nationally recognized for his commitment to local journalism. He also is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Oregon.