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Oracle: State improperly concealed whistleblower's bombshell account of Cover Oregon debacle

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum faces an accusation from Oracle that she concealed information about a top state witness in the bitter litigation over the Cover Oregon debacle. On the eve of a key hearing Oracle is asking a judge to throw out the state’s billion-dollar fraud lawsuit over the Cover Oregon website debacle. The company accuses the state of playing hide-the ball to dishonestly conceal Oregon's top witness.

Former Oracle manager David Jurk’s blistering assessment of the company’s work— claiming overbilling, incompetence, antiquated and poorly integrated products, repeated misrepresentations and fraud — is a central element of the state’s case. And now, thanks to the new arguments raised by Oracle, Oregonians for the first time can read his full, unfiltered account.

Click here to read Jurk interview

In a new filing, however, Oracle claims the state intentionally concealed the Oracle whistleblower's identity and withheld much of his early testimony in an effort to shape the case to serve Oregon’s purposes and undermine Oracle’s defense. For instance, the company says, Oregon prepared other witnesses by asking them to review only parts of Jurk’s August 2014 sworn statement, while withholding sections in which he indicates the state was partially to blame for the debacle and that his opinions were not always based on first-hand knowledge. The state’s withholdings and delays concerning Jurk were unfair, improper, and hurt Oracle’s ability to mount a defense, the company says.

Oregon, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and her attorneys “have attempted what is tantamount to a fraud on the court, and their misconduct has infected the entire case. No judge or jury can trust what they say,” Oracle argues. At the very least, the company’s lawyers say, the case should be wound back to effectively start over and allow new depositions at the state’s expense.

Click here to read Oracle's motion for sanctions

The failed $300 million Cover Oregon technology project was supposed to be a state-of-the-art health coverage shopping and enrollment website, or "exchange." Instead it was scrapped before it was ever deployed to the public — leading to costly and bitter warfare in court and in the media between the two sides.

Jurk worked for Oracle for three years, much of it in a key role of making disparate software products sold to Oregon work together on the Cover Oregon project. To get the contract the firm had billed its products as a fully-integrated "solution" for Oregon's health insurance exchange —but Jurk echoes other former Cover Oregon insiders and documents in saying the Oracle components didn't work well together at all.

The timing of Oracle’s aggressively worded motion trying to undermine Jurk's testimony may not be coincidental. It comes on the eve of a hearing Monday on the state’s motion for permission to beef up its lawsuit by seeking punitive damages against Oracle for malfeasance. The state relies heavily on Jurk’s testimony. Oracle’s new motion, however, accuses the state of dishonesty and bad faith while asking that Marion County Circuit Court Judge Courtland Geyer reject the state’s effort to boost damages.

Asked for comment, a Rosenblum spokeswoman sent the following statement. "This motion is another attempt by Oracle to delay as the trial date grows closer."

Rosenblum's office refused to release the Jurk transcript. But Oracle released it to the Portland Tribune and posted it publicly on the state courts website. Sections that were for months withheld from Oracle by the state are marked in yellow in the copy submitted by the company.

In the sworn interview, Jurk makes a number of claims, including that Oracle repeatedly torpedoed ideas that would have produced a working health exchange on time, in order to pursue an approach that would lead to more revenue over the long haul. Oracle billed for the work of employees with “no technical skills” and for work that was “completely useless” to the exchange’s functioning, as well as for work done on demonstration projects intended to win contracts from other states, he said.

Jurk said Oracle intentionally misrepresented the quality of its work. He said he noted some of Oracle’s internal challenges while talking to Cover Oregon officials in a meeting, only to get a text from a higher-up he’d never heard of who’d been listening from a remote location.

“Never say anything like that in front of the client,” the text said, according to Jurk.

“I responded back and I said, ‘who the hell are you?” Jurk added. “He said ‘just kept your mouth shut and we’ll catch up after the meeting.”

Jurk said Oracle’s internal politics doomed the project. Specifically, Oracle’s consulting arm – ostensibly leading the project—was repeatedly blocked and subverted by another unit called enterprise architecture that was doing the bidding of Oracle’s profit-oriented sales team, he said.

"I felt that Oracle consulting had become a prostitute to sales and to the enterprise architecture people, who in my mind were interested in one thing only and that was continued revenue and iexpanding revenue as opposite to doing a viable, effective, efficient job on (the health exchange), " Jurk said while explaining his decision to leave Oracle in February 2013. "And the more I tried to get us back focused on … doing the job we should have been doing for the state of Oregon, the more I was being isolated and, well, excommunicated, to use that term. And at some point I felt like I didn’t want to be a part of what I considered to be gross malfeasance on the part of Oracle … It was taxpayers money that — talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, it just becomes criminal.”

Before quitting, Jurk met secretly with Cover Oregon officials to advise them on the ways he felt the company was not living up to its obligations. Oracle says he tried to get hired by the state.

Jurk did not only fault Oracle. He said a late-breaking decision by the state to use a different company on the public website portal greatly increased delays, and he also portrayed the state as incompetent for believing Oracle's contract pitch that it had an exchange that was essentially 95 percent complete, ready and available off the shelf.

"The person that believed that statement, I'd like to sell them some real estate," he said. Later, he added, "How short of a time do you have to be in the IT business to say 'Wait a second, this doesn't add up?'"

According to Oracle’s motion, the state lied to the judge by claiming it had "substantially" complied with Oracle's requests to turn over evidence as required by the judge as well as state court rules.

The state had cited fear of reprisal against Jurk to justify withholding information about the whistleblower and his testimony. However, Oracle says this is a lie, citing Jurk's subsequent deposition testimony that he always expected his statements would be public.

The state withheld Jurk's identity until long after the state's case was filed in August 2014, Oracle complains. And not until last month was the full, unredacted transcript of his sworn Aug. 2014 interview released to Oracle.

Oracle's motion contends that among the portions of Jurk’s statement that were withheld were “statements making clear that he is deeply and irrationally biased against Oracle.”

By Nick Budnick
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