Pinnacol Cancels Staff Party After $318,000 Golf Trip

Company Says Economic Conditions, Publicity Over Trip Led To Cancel Saturday's Party

Pinnacol Assurance, quasi-state worker’s compensation provider that has been under fire for spending more than $318,000 on a five-day golf outing in Pebble Beach, has canceled its staff holiday party because of “tough economic times” and the recent publicity over the golf trip, CALL7 Investigators have learned. It is unclear if it will be rescheduled.

“Given the tough economic times being faced by Colorado businesses and their workers, and in light of the recent events that have brought attention to Pinnacol’s activities, we did not feel it was an appropriate time to hold a company celebration,” according to an internal e-mail obtained by CALL7 Investigator Tony Kovaleski.

The party was scheduled for Saturday, but the e-mail sent out Monday said the executive team has decided to reschedule the event. No new date was set in the e-mail.

An employee who provided the e-mail to 7News said the decision angered staff.

“A large majority of employees are upset. Very upset.” the Pinnacol employee, who requested that 7News protect the employee's name, wrote in an e-mail. “Ken Ross and his upper management get to go on lavish trips ... and now that they have been caught, the employees are the ones to suffer.”

The employee’s e-mail said many Pinnacol employees feel a May 2010 to trip Pebble Beach, first reported by CALL7 Investigators, was “extremely inappropriate” and that Pinnacol Chief Executive Officer Ken Ross and the board members who attended the trip should resign.

In May, CALL7 Investigators followed Pinnacol to an agent incentive trip at Pebble Beach golf resort, finding Ross, Board President Gary Johnson, Board Ethics Chairwoman Debra Lovejoy and Board Member Ryan Hettich golfing, wining and dining at Pinnacol’s expense.

The Pinnacol board members are appointed by the state’s governor and charged with monitoring the agency’s spending as well as setting compensation for executives. Upon viewing the 7News video, top state elected officials called the trip inappropriate and questioned how the board members can be an independent on decisions affecting Pinnacol executives after accepting a lavish trip.

After the trip, Pinnacol declined to release detailed receipts of the expenses under state open records laws and asked a Denver District Court judge to block release of the documents. The judge ruled in favor of 7News and the documents obtained Jan. 6 showed the trip cost more than $300,000, had at least $20,000 in liquor expenses and one meal that cost more than $19,000. The trip also showed Pinnacol paid for spa treatments for employees and relatives and gifts to the board members.

Top legislators and the Denver Post called for Ross and the board members who attended the trip to resign after the details for the trip were made public.

Pinnacol spokeswoman Suzi Stolte confirmed the holiday party for staff was cancelled but declined to provide information beyond the e-mail.

The “information is correct and speaks for itself,” Stolte wrote in an email. “Given the tough economic times being faced by Colorado businesses and their workers, and in light of the recent events that have brought attention to Pinnacol’s activities, Pinnacol did not feel it was an appropriate time to hold a company celebration.”