The Pinnacol Board of Directors voted to take a $163,000 bonus away from Chief Executive Officer Ken Ross because of his threats and behavior towards CALL7 Investigator Tony Kovaleski.
"The board understands that they shouldn't have gone to Pebble Beach," said Blair Richardson, the board's newly elected chairman. "Ken Ross's bonus is being withheld today because of his conduct in Pebble Beach."
CALL7 Investigators followed Pinnacol employees, three board members and agents to Pebble Beach, watching them golfing, taking spa treatments and wining and dining. At the end of the trip, Kovaleski wanted to ask Board Chairman Gary Johnson whether it was appropriate to be accepting thousands in travel and gifts from Pinnacol when they are appointed by the governor to oversee Ross.
But Ross stepped in, had to be restrained and threatened: "You point your finger at me again, I'm going to break it."
Richardson said while Ross met all his financial goals, the majority of the board felt the behavior was so inappropriate that they voted to take the $163,000 bonus Ross was expecting to receive.
However, Johnson, who is now the board's vice chairman, and Ryan Hettich, who also took the trip, and two other board members voted to have Ross keep his bonus. They were outvoted by five board members -- three of them newly appointed -- who decided to withhold the bonus. The bonus will be deducted half this year -- so he will be paid half the bonus. And then the other half will be taken out of any bonus Ross receives next year.
Richardson said that was done because Ross met all his financial goals.
Ross also received a 3.5 percent increase on his $323,000 salary. The bonuses, salaries and travel have been questioned by state audits that say Pinnacol executives are paid more than other quasi-state agencies like RTD and PERA.
Richardson had promised Gov. John Hickenlooper to investigate the Pebble Beach trip and the board voted to set up a committee that will report to Hickenlooper in 60 days on whether the trip was appropriate. Richardson left open the possibility that Ross could lose his job after that report.
Richardson said Ross was apologetic and acted "professionally" when he was told he would lose his 2010 bonus.
Richardson repeatedly refused to say whether Ross would have lost his bonus just for spending $318,000 on the golf trip, adding the trip was wrong.
Johnson and Hettich did not come out of the front door of the Pinnacol building and could not be reached for comment.
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