July 22, 2012 in Idaho

Eye on Boise: Fighting wrongful firing lawsuit costly for Idaho

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Idaho’s legal bill for fighting the wrongful firing 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 are yet to be filed in court. The last payment was made March 8, according to state records.

There are likely to be further billings; the case went to mediation on July 11, shortly before both sides notified the court that it had been settled, though terms haven’t been disclosed. Other developments in the case since March 8 included a May hearing in federal court and various stipulations; the case had been scheduled for a jury trial in July 2013.

The Idaho Transportation Department hired prominent attorney Newal Squyres of Holland & Hart – 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 and sex discrimination in her dismissal, was filed in 2009 after the ITD board abruptly fired the professional engineer and longtime employee; she was the ITD’s first female director.

Asked last week about the state’s three-year fight against Lowe’s lawsuit and the resulting legal bill, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said, “I’m not sure I’m allowed to say anything about anything – everything’s sealed.”

The U.S. District Court has set an Aug. 31 deadline for filing final dismissal paperwork in the case.

Campaign funding, spending

Idaho has two congressional races this year: seven-term 2nd District GOP U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson is facing a challenge from Boise Democratic state Sen. Nicole LeFavour. In addition, 1st District freshman GOP Rep. Raul Labrador is up against Democratic challenger Jimmy Farris, a former NFL football player, Lewiston native and first-time political candidate. The latest campaign finance reports from all four provide a glimpse at how the races are shaping up and what’s in store.

In the 1st District race, Labrador has raised $551,568 to date, compared to $37,388 for Farris; in the latest reporting period, Labrador raised $68,725, spent $66,293 and closed the quarter with $202,947 in the bank. Farris’ quarterly fundraising came to $9,899; he spent $8,762 and had $8,306 on hand at the close of the quarter.

In the 2nd District, LeFavour has raised $156,016 so far for her run, which is considerably ahead of most of Simpson’s Democratic challengers in recent years, but Simpson’s record take dwarfs that at $955,982.

Interestingly, cash-on-hand figures for the two candidates aren’t as far apart: Simpson had $196,703 as of June 30, while LeFavour had $117,602.

That’s partly because of high expenditures by Simpson. In the most recent period, Simpson raised $193,734 but spent $151,024. LeFavour raised $88,065 and spent $28,258. And though Simpson has raised $955,982 to date, his campaign spending to date came to $604,302, plus he’s transferred $300,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee to help other candidates, including $50,000 in the most recent quarter.

Hall of Fame inductees

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge N. Randy Smith has been inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame, which was established in 1995 to recognize people, living or dead, who have “advanced the common good of the state of Idaho.” A display in the lower-level rotunda of the state Capitol highlights the inductees, who include historical figures, sports stars, business leaders, military officials and elected officials. Among those honored: Sacagawea, Harmon Killebrew, Lana Turner, William Borah and Barbara Morgan.

Smith, who served as an Idaho district judge before being named to the 9th Circuit Court in 2007, said, “I am a bit overwhelmed to be included in such company. I don’t know if I am in the same league with these people, but I am very honored.”

The Hall of Fame made a controversial decision on an honoree in 2007, choosing then-Sen. Larry Craig in the midst of the scandal over his arrest in an airport bathroom sex sting. Craig had been selected before the news broke, but the induction ceremony, which he attended, came just a week after he announced he’d serve out his term despite saying earlier that he intended to resign in the wake of the scandal. Craig was among 11 inductees that year.

Nine individuals were inducted this year, along with five businesses and organizations, including Hospice of North Idaho, the Kroc Center and Silverwood. In addition to Smith, this year’s individual honorees included artist James Castle, Coeur d’Alene human rights activist and political scientist Tony Stewart, Benewah County commissioner and trucking company owner Jack Buell, and architect Charles Hummel.


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