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Eye On Boise

Mon., June 7, 2010, 8:04 p.m.

Former ITD chief Lowe files response, hearing set for July in wrongful-firing case

Fired ITD Director Pam Lowe has filed her response to the state's arguments against granting the core  of her wrongful-firing claims in a partial judgment, and Lowe's lawyers contend the state's arguments misconstrued case law, overlooked clear rulings from the Idaho Supreme Court that an employee isn't considered "at-will" if the law limits the reasons for which she can be fired, and failed to address the Legislature's Statement of Purpose for the 1974 law that says an ITD director "shall serve at the pleasure of the board and may be removed by the board for inefficiency, neglect of duty, malfeasance or nonfeasance in office." The original SOP, submitted to the court earlier by Lowe's lawyers, says the director "shall serve at the pleasure of the board and may be removed by the board only for stated cause."

The board cited none of those reasons when it fired Lowe, instead saying her firing would improve "customer service, economy of operations, accountability and our relations with the Legislature." Lowe contends she was fired for refusing to scale back a hefty contract with politically well-connected firms and that she was targeted for her gender; she was the first woman to head the department, and has now been replaced by a man who's being paid $22,000 a year more than she was. The state has argued she was merely an "at-will" employee and could be fired at any time, for any reason or no reason, with no required hearings or other steps. It's contended the list of reasons for firing the director are merely examples. U.S. District Magistrate Judge Ron Bush has scheduled arguments on Lowe's motion - which centers on the "at-will" issue - for July. You can read Lowe's response here; it was filed today.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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