Pam Lowe claims she was willing to take less, but the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) did not want the dispute to take up any more time. In the end, the agency settled and paid the former director $750,000 in the wake of wrongful-firing lawsuit.
Lowe, ITD’s first female leader, was caught in a political quandary back in 2009. She was attempting to cut the $50 million Connecting Idaho Partners to under $30 million, but received pressure from Gov. Butch Otter’s administration to pull back. The lead firm involved in the highway construction projects was URS, which was a large contributor to Otter’s election campaigns, and was tight with state Senate Transportation Chairman John McGee. McGee attempted to introduce legislation to strip the ITD’s power to hire or terminate the director. Four months later, ITD ended up releasing Lowe anyway.
“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,” Jeff Stratten, spokesman for ITD, said in a statement. In total, the dispute cost ITD $1.34 million.
“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,” Lowe told The Spokesman-Review. “I’m certainly happy to put this behind me.”