Friday, August 31, 2012

Picking up the tab for arrogance


Terms of a settlement between the state of Idaho and former Transportation Director Pam Lowe were released last week. She sued the state after she was fired more than two years ago.

One of the settlement terms was that that the parties wouldn’t disparage one another. Neither of the parties needs to say a word. The matters involved in the suit are disparaging enough.

Lowe, an engineer, claimed she was fired wrongfully after she refused to quit pressuring politically connected companies to reduce costs on multi-million-dollar highway projects.

She won the first round when a lower court found that she was not an “at will” employee and that the state could not fire her for any reason or no reason at all. After that decision, the state came to the bargaining table.

Idaho agreed to pay her $750,000 to end the suit. It also racked up $590,833 in legal fees to a private firm it hired to defend it because the state’s attorneys didn’t have time. More legal bills may be on the way.

That’s a total of $1.34 million the state will pay because of what looks to Capitol outsiders like nothing less than a ham-handed illegal firing and a shameful political power-play gone wrong.

Lowe claimed that she was fired for refusing to succumb to pressure to end cost-cutting demands on engineering and construction firms that had donated to Gov. Butch Otter’s election campaigns and to then-Senate Transportation Chairman John McGee (R-Caldwell).

Lowe alleged that when she refused to quit trying to reduce a $50 million contract to $30 million that McGee introduced legislation to strip the Idaho Transportation Department board of the power to hire and fire the director. The legislation failed to pass, but the board fired her four months later under pressure from McGee, Lowe claimed. The board subsequently hired a man as her replacement and hiked his salary $22,000 above Lowe’s.

Ironies abound.

Idaho’s a small, poor state where more than a million bucks still means something when the Legislature engages in its annual rock-lifting exercise to try to find enough money to balance the budget. 

Gov. Otter and the Republican-dominated Legislature are famous for boasting about their fiscal restraint and concern for taxpayers.

ITD issued a self-serving statement saying that the board agreed to settle the lawsuit because of the potential risks, time, expense and the likelihood that legal fees would escalate. The statement should also have said, “No snickering, please.”

The damage is done. The state’s walking away with a couple of black eyes and a cracked jaw that all look self-inflicted. It’s Idahoan’s who’ve been blindsided by their own leaders. It is taxpayers who are stuck with the tab for arrogance.




About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of mtexpress.com and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads



 Local Weather 
Search archives:


Copyright © 2019 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.