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.
ITD, former Director Lowe reach lawsuit settlement
The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and former director Pamela Lowe have reached a final settlement that dismisses her lawsuit against ITD, it was announced today.
“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,” said ITD spokesman Jeff Stratten. “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 court’s primary decision at this stage of the case ruled only that Lowe had a protected property interest in her position as ITD’s director, leaving numerous issues unresolved.
The parties met at a court-ordered mediation and reached a resolution of the case.
As part of the settlement, the State of Idaho will pay Lowe $750,000. In its defense of the case, the Idaho Transportation Board was unanimous in its belief that Lowe was an at-will employee based on Idaho law and her acknowledgement in her employment agreement. (See ITD’s Answer to Lowe’s Second Amended Complaint, Exhibit A, available at link below.)
In addition, the board viewed Lowe’s other claims as being without merit, based upon an investigation involving a review of more than 50,000 pages of documents and interviews of dozens of people.
Lowe asserted in her lawsuit that she was fired for trying to reduce the amount of work performed by Connecting Idaho Partners (CIP) as part of the GARVEE Program. However, the transportation department began renegotiating the contract and reducing CIP’s work before Lowe became director. The renegotiation of the contract and the reduction of CIP’s GARVEE Program work was an integral part of the first GARVEE contract in 2006. Lowe did not become director until a year later in 2007.
Additionally, the Idaho Legislature enacted a law requiring ITD to renegotiate the contract at the “best possible rates” and perform as much GARVEE Program work as possible within the department. (See 2007 Idaho Session Laws 363; 2008 Idaho Session Laws 367).
“The board specifically directed Ms. Lowe to reduce the CIP contract and bring more work back to ITD, and it did not fire her for carrying out those assigned responsibilities,” said Stratten.
Lowe’s claim of gender discrimination also is disputed by the board. Lowe alleged that when she was hired certain statements were made by one of ITD’s former board members, Gary Blick, relating to her gender. Blick adamantly denies that he made such statements. ITD’s investigation into the allegations failed to reveal any person that heard Blick make the statements referenced by Lowe.
Additionally, there is no connection between the alleged statements and Lowe’s firing. Lowe claims the statements were made in 2006 when she was hired as director, but the alleged statements were not a factor in the board’s hiring decisions, since Lowe was ultimately hired as director.
Similarly, the alleged statements did not have any bearing on Lowe’s firing, since that decision was made in 2009, more than two years after the statements were allegedly made and by a different board than the one that hired her. (See ITD’s Answer to Lowe’s Second Amended Complaint, paragraph 16, available at link below.)
The board also viewed Lowe’s claim of a violation of the Equal Pay Act as being without basis. The salary was based on legitimate non-gender related reasons, such as the director’s qualifications anddifferences in cost of living, insurance coverage, comparative benefits, and local tax bases. (See ITD’s Answer to Lowe’s Second Amended Complaint, paragraph 41, available at link below.)
When Lowe was promoted to director, she was paid more than her predecessor David Ekern.
“This settlement allows us to move forward and focus on the good things that are happening at ITD,” Stratten said.
Idaho Transportation Department