Posts tagged: ITD
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― A large shipment of water-purification equipment will be transported through Idaho to Montana on a disputed mountain highway where big loads have been the subject of oversized controversy. The Idaho Transportation Department announced Wednesday a trucking company will transport the purification equipment on U.S. Highway 95 and U.S. Highway 12 next week. The shipment weighs 520,000 pounds and is 300 feet long, 20 feet wide and 22 feet high. Shipments along Highway 12, which parallels the Lochsa River through northcentral Idaho, have been the subject of heated debate after Exxon Mobil sought to use the route to get enormous refinery gear from a Snake River port to Canadian oil sands. Amid opposition, the company trimmed its loads and used another route. The purification equipment begins its four-day journey Monday night.
The state's legal bill for fighting former ITD chief Pam Lowe's wrongful firing lawsuit has swelled to $614,647, according to information obtained under the Idaho Public Records Law. Idaho's Risk Management office in the state Department of Administration, responding to a pending public records request from Eye on Boise, reported that figure for total attorney fees and other defense costs for the state as of the date of dismissal. Kit Coffin, risk management chief, reported, “That is the total of all in hand on the date of dismissal. There may be another bill or two from work relating to that.”
After close to three years of litigation, the state settled with Lowe for $750,000; it also gave her a positive job reference, which was attached to the settlement.
The Idaho Transportation Department, in a news release today on the state's settlement with former ITD chief Pam Lowe, said, “The Idaho Transportation Board still believes it was appropriate and within its legal rights to fire Ms. Lowe, but concluded a settlement is the best course at this time.” ITD spokesman Jeff Stratten said, “The board was prepared to take its case to trial, but the potential risks, time, expense, and possible appeals meant the costs of litigation would continue to escalate.” The board also continued to dispute Lowe's claims in her wrongful-firing lawsuit; click below to read ITD's full news release.
Pam Lowe, former Idaho Transporation chief, had these comments today on the settlement she reached with the state in her wrongful firing lawsuit, in response to questions from Eye on Boise:
“I recognize that $750,000 is a lot of money, but it is a compromise and was much less than my actual damages.” Lowe's attorney fees, back wages and benefits alone added up to close to $500,000. “Comparatively, certainly it's a fraction of the cost to taxpayers of the GARVEE contract,” she noted, referring to the $50 million contract with politically well-connected firms that she tried to trim back to $30 million - and that since has swelled to more than $80 million.
Said Lowe, “I tried to resolve this dispute early on, even as early as at the time of my termination, for much less money than what ITD is paying me now.”
She added, “As you can see from the settlement agreement, my attorneys received 25 percent of the total amount paid. That's in addition to some other fees that I paid them, and I thought they did a fantastic job. But what I paid for my attorney fees was a fraction of what the state paid, and I do believe I got great value.” The state of Idaho paid nearly $600,000 in fees to a private law firm that handled its end of the case, and more bills still could come in.
“I'm certainly happy to put this behind me,” Lowe said. “I've spent my entire career as a public servant dedicated to transparency and to transportation, and I've focused on saving Idaho taxpayers money while constructing the transportation system.” She said, “I'm a positive person and I'm glad to take a positive step and put this litigation behind me and be able to move on with my life. I'm proud of what I accomplished at ITD.”
Attached to the settlement, the ITD board gave Lowe a letter of recommendation for future jobs. “As their employment letter states, throughout my career at ITD including my term as director, I did my job. And that letter was significant,” she said. “I had nothing but positive performance evaluations, and my last written evaluation by the chairman of the board said I was an exceptional manager and saved Idaho $50 million. So I'm pleased with my accomplishments at the Idaho Transportation Department.”
The state of Idaho is paying $750,000 to former Transportation Director Pam Lowe to settle her wrongful-firing lawsuit, bringing the state's total cost for the case to $1.34 million. That's because Idaho already has paid $590,833 to the private law firm it hired to defend it against Lowe's lawsuit, according to information obtained under the Idaho Public Records Law; more bills may yet come due.
Lowe, the department's first female director, charged she was fired without cause, because she resisted political pressure against reducing a giant contract with a politically well-connected firm; she also alleged gender discrimination. She was replaced by a man who started at a salary $22,000 higher than hers.
The settlement, released today after final papers were filed in federal court this morning, includes a glowing job recommendation for Lowe, signed by the chairman of the Idaho Transportation Board. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Public records revealed today that the state has sent another $34,594 payment to the private law firm it hired to defend the state Transportation Board against a wrongful-firing lawsuit from ousted former state Transportation Director Pam Lowe. Lowe, the department's first female chief, recently settled her lawsuit, which charged both gender discrimination and political pressure; the settlement hasn't yet been disclosed. The state's legal bill to the law firm of Holland & Hart now adds up to nearly $600,000 - more precisely, $590,833.
The Idaho Transportation Department and law enforcement agencies across the state are partnering up for an anti-aggressive driving push - including intensive patrols on popular routes focusing on speeding and other aggressive driving behaviors - from Aug. 1-13.
The reason: Idaho has higher rates of crashes involving aggressive driving than the nation, and aggressive driving was a contributing factor in nearly half of Idaho car crashes in 2011. Speeding is a factor in more than a third of Idaho's traffic deaths.
“Law enforcement is not just writing tickets for bad driving behavior,” said Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson, whose agency is among 49 joining in the two-week enforcement push. “Law enforcement agencies across the state are partnering to target aggressive drivers and motorcycle riders to make our roads safer for Idahoans who want to arrive home safe to their families.” Click below for ITD's full announcement.
Among a boatload of interesting items posted on the Idaho Statesman's Idaho Politics blog by columnist Dan Popkey are these:
* At least five Idaho lawmakers are off to Salt Lake this week for the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference, including defeated Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, who is traveling at state expense, as is Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens. Popkey reports that Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, the Idaho state chair for ALEC, opted to go at her own expense; read his full post here.
* In the primary election, the Idaho Education Association funneled $9,320 into a new PAC called Idaho Republicans for our Schools, which used the money for robo-calls supporting five GOP legislative candidates: GOP Sens. Shawn Keough, Tim Corder and Dean Cameron, and GOP candidates Stan Bastian and Alan Ward. Rick Jones of Rathdrum, IEA vice president, a Republican and the treasurer of the new PAC, told Popkey, “There are many Idaho educators who are Republicans. What we're saying is let's vote for Republicans who support public education, they're not mutually exclusive.” You can read Popkey's full item here.
* Word that Holland & Hart, the private law firm hired by the state to defend it against former ITD chief Pam Lowe's wrongful-firing lawsuit, spent $4,419 in state money to hire Gallatin Public Affairs Group for “litigation assistance” in the first half of 2010, including advice on how the lawsuit would be portrayed in the news media. Read the full report here.
The Idaho Transportation Board, meeting in Coeur d'Alene today, voted to move up nine major road construction projects around the state, saying cost savings and interest savings are allowing them to push them up. Three of the projects, all in the Treasure Valley, also will tap $80 million in existing GARVEE bonding authority for part of the project cost; they will reconstruct the Meridian Road, Broadway and Gowen Road interchanges on I-84, with work scheduled to start in 2014.
The other projects include straightening and realigning U.S. 2 from Lake Street to Cedar Street in Sandpoint, on which construction will start in 2013; realigning U.S. 95 from Thorn Creek to Moscow, a seven-mile project now scheduled to start construction in 2015; restoring four miles of pavement on I-84 from the Meridian Interchange to Five Mile Road, which will start in late 2012; and construction of a new eastbound interchange at the junction of I-84 and U.S. 93 near Twin Falls, on which work will start in late 2012. Click below for the ITD board's full announcement.
The state of Idaho's legal bill for fighting the wrongful termination lawsuit from former Transportation Director Pam Lowe: $540,479 and counting. Information obtained under the Idaho Public Records Law shows that's how much the state has paid the Boise law firm of Holland & Hart for the case thus far; the case has now been settled, though final papers still are to be filed in court. The last payment was made March 8, according to state records. The Idaho Transportation Department hired prominent attorney Newal Squyres of the firm, who when hired was the president of the Idaho State Bar, to defend the state against the suit; Lowe won a major ruling on March 31, when a federal magistrate held that she was not, as the state had argued, an “at-will” employee who could be dismissed without cause.
Lowe's lawsuit, which charged political pressure, sex discrimination and more in her dismissal, was filed in 2009 after the ITD board abruptly fired the professional engineer and longtime employee; she was ITD’s first female director.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter today, asked about the state's three-year fight against Lowe's lawsuit and the resulting legal bill, said, “I'm not sure I'm allowed to say anything about anything - everything's sealed.”
Former Idaho Transportation Director Pam Lowe, contacted at her new job in Delaware, said of her settlement with the state of Idaho in her wrongful-firing lawsuit, “All I can tell you is this has been resolved, and I'm pleased with the resolution. … I can't talk about what's in it. I just can tell you that I'm very pleased to have it resolved.”
Lowe said, “I'm just really excited about looking to the future.” She's currently working as financial director for the state Department of Transportation in Delaware. “I'm enjoying the challenges here and I'm doing a lot of fascinating, interesting things,” she said. “They hired me to work on some projects and I'm going to continue to do that. So I'm excited about the things I'm actually accomplishing here, but Idaho is my home and I do plan to return.” She added, “My house and my husband and my family are still in Boise, and that's still my home.”
The state of Idaho has settled a lawsuit filed by fired former Transportation Director Pam Lowe, who charged she was illegally let go for standing up to political pressure and was discriminated against because she was female. Lowe was the Idaho Transportation Department's first female director; after she was fired, she was replaced by a man who is being paid $22,000 a year more than she made.
No information was immediately available on the terms of the settlement; Lowe had sought reinstatement in her job, back pay and benefits, and attorney fees and costs as well as damages for emotional distress. Just the back pay, benefits and attorney fees would add up to close to half a million dollars. Lowe , a professional engineer, was a longtime ITD employee, starting there in 1993 and rising to director in January of 2007. She was named the department’s first female district engineer in 2000.
In April, she won a key ruling in the case, when U.S. Magistrate Judge Ron Bush ruled that Lowe wasn't an “at-will” employee who could be dismissed without cause, as the state had argued. She contended her firing came because she tried to scale back a big contract with a politically well-connected firm; that she was fired without cause and without being allowed a hearing; and that she was discriminated against because she’s female. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Opponents of megaload transports through Idaho's scenic Highway 12 river corridor have issued the following statement on Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil's withdrawal of its permit application to the state of Montana for the loads:
“The Rural People of Highway 12-Fighting Goliath feel gratified that the industrialization of the beautiful Lochsa-Clearwater U.S.12 corridor has, for now, been stopped and that the Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil threat to north central Idaho's outdoor recreation paradise and its single growing industry, tourism, has been removed.”
Meanwhile, a lawsuit from Idaho Rivers United still is pending in federal court, charging that the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Highway Administration have failed to enforce federal laws including the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because they haven't moved to stop megaload transports through the designated wild and scenic river corridor.
Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil has withdrawn its application to the state of Montana to haul more than 200 megaloads of oil sands equipment over Lolo Pass and through northwestern Montana into Canada. The company said it's already brought in all the loads it needs for the first phase of its oil sands project via other routes, the Associated Press reports.
Imperial spokesman Pius Rolheiser told the AP that the company has contracted for the demolition of a huge test module that has been sitting in a parking lot at Lolo Hot Springs since May 4, 2011. The load will be removed in chunks that won't require oversized permits.
The proposal to haul the giant, oversized loads across Idaho's scenic HIghway 12 to Lolo Pass drew legal challenges and protests in Idaho as well, though lawmakers and Gov. Butch Otter welcomed the prospect. The three-story-high loads would have been wide enough to block both lanes of the two-lane road, creating rolling roadblocks. In Montana, environmental and traffic issues were raised about the route, and Missoula County, the National Wildlife Federation, the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club all filed suit.
Idaho's Highway 12, a designated state and federal scenic byway, runs along two wild and scenic river corridors dotted with campgrounds, hot springs and historic sites, and roughly follows the route taken by explorers Lewis and Clark into the region two centuries ago. Click below for a full report from the AP in Missoula.
The Idaho Transportation Department has issued the following statement on a federal judge's ruling over the weekend in favor of fired former ITD Director Pam Lowe:
“The department is disappointed in the ruling and will consider an appeal. Based on this ruling, the next step is to determine whether or not the Idaho Transportation Board provided due process to Ms. Lowe. The ruling does not address claims of gender discrimination and wrongful firing. No schedule has been set by the court to hear these claims.”
“I am absolutely elated,” fired former ITD Director Pam Lowe said this morning, after a federal judge sided with her over the weekend in a key ruling in her wrongful termination lawsuit. “It absolutely vindicated me and what I had been saying, and that is that the board was happy with my work, I had done a good job, I had had nothing but positive comments from the board as well as certainly my formal evaluations, but that the board succumbed to political blackmail and pressure from John McGee when he ran that bill.”
McGee, then chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, introduced legislation in 2009 to strip the Idaho Transportation Board of the ability to hire and fire the director, though the bill didn't pass. “He was interested in helping his campaign contributors,” Lowe said, “and I didn't want to do what he wanted done with that contract, which was to throw a bunch more money at them that didn't need to happen, and he ran that bill to strip the board of their powers.” McGee, who resigned from the Senate this year in the wake of sexual harassment allegations from a female Senate staffer, couldn't immediately be reached for comment; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
In 2009, a multimillion-dollar contract with two Idaho firms to oversee major bonded highway construction projects in the state was being cut back; the lead firm, URS, formerly Washington Group, was a big donor to Gov. Butch Otter's election campaigns, as well as to McGee's. Lowe said the governor's chief of staff pressured her not to reduce the contract, and McGee's bill was in response to her move.
“I had more than one board member tell me that it was McGee and it was blackmail,” she said. “They had no reason other than pure politics to terminate me.” She added, “It was purely political reasons, and it was certainly not one of the four reasons that the judge has said needed to happen in order for a proper termination to occur.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ron Bush has ruled in favor of fired ITD Director Pam Lowe on a key point in her wrongful-firing case: That she wasn't an “at-will” employee who could be dismissed without cause. It's a significant win for Lowe, who contends her firing came because she tried to scale back a big contract with a politically well-connected firm; that she was fired without cause and without being allowed a hearing; and that she was discriminated against because she's female. She was the first woman to head the Idaho Transportation Department; she since has been replaced by a man who is being paid $22,000 a year more than she made.
The judge's ruling, issued Saturday, opens the way for consideration of the gender-bias and political pressure claims.
At issue was the 1974 law creating the ITD director's position, saying, “The 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 department didn't cite any of the four reasons from the law in firing Lowe. Instead, the ITD board said in 2009, that Lowe's firing would “help the department continue improving customer service, economy of operations, accountability and our relations with the Legislature.” In court documents, the state contended Lowe was fired for not adequately dealing with the Legislature, which it said meant she was doing a poor job despite good reviews for her internal management of the department. You can read the judge's 57-page decision here.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: The final two over-legal loads of oil field equipment at the Port of Lewiston in Idaho are scheduled to hit the road Tuesday night, weather permitting. Imperial Oil spokesman Pius Rolheiser says the company moved three loads on Sunday night and plan to move two more on Tuesday. The loads will travel from Lewiston north to Coeur d'Alene on Highway 95. They will travel to and through western Montana on Interstate 90 and Interstate 15 and into Canada for an oil sands project. Both shipments are 24 feet wide and 15 feet high. One is 215 feet long and weighs 415,000 pounds. The second is 135 feet long and 255,000 pounds. Rolheiser says the company has some additional legal loads to move out of Lewiston.
Idaho has been losing $645,000 a year administering oversize-load permits including those for so-called megaloads, Lewiston Tribune reporter Bill Spence reported today; the news came out when an ITD official briefed a legislative committee on pending ITD rules, which include fee increases designed to try to wipe out that deficit. “We're required to recoup the administrative cost of running the program,” ITD official Regina Phipps told the Senate Transportation Committee; you can read Spence's full post here at his “Political Theater” blog.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Transportation Department has approved a plan allowing large loads of Imperial Oil equipment to resume travel on the state's highways. The megaloads were suspended Dec. 6 after a driver tried to leave a staging area on U.S. 95 near Moscow and the equipment hit a passenger van. The truck driver was cited for inattentive driving. ITD said Wednesday it approved a plan to allow the shipments to resume. Two loads were to leave the Port of Lewiston after 8 p.m. Wednesday. A third module north of Moscow was to resume its travel Wednesday night, as well. The oversized shipments of components for a processing plant at the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada were to stop at a parking area east of Coeur d'Alene before entering Montana.