Here's a draft of our Wednesday editorial on the lawsuit filed by former Idaho Transportation Department director Pam Lowe.
The case of former Idaho Transportation Department director Pamela Lowe became a cottage industry of sorts.
For high-powered Boise law firm Holland and Hart, the gender discrimination and wrongful termination suit produced at least a $540,479 payday. According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, which used a public records request to quantify the legal costs, those bills run through March 8 — so it’s possible taxpayers are on the hook for even more.
Holland and Hart, in turn, hired Gallatin Public Affairs’ Boise office for $4,419 in “litigation assistance” — or advice about how this ugly legal dispute might play out in the media. As Gallatin managing partner Marc Johnson told Dan Popkey of the Statesman, “(Holland and Hart was) anticipating a high degree of interest in the case.”
Did it really take a consultant to arrive at this conclusion?
It’s troubling enough that state officials don’t seem to believe they adequate staff to handle a matter such as the Lowe case. Holland and Hart got the legal contract because Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office didn’t have adequate resources to represent ITD.
But here’s the worst of it. For now, we have but a partial accounting, a rundown of some of the indirect costs stemming from this fiasco. We don’t know how much Lowe received in a July 16 agreement settling her November 2009 lawsuit.
Those numbers will not become public record until a federal judge finalizes the settlement. And these are the numbers that may well confirm what is already apparent — that the state thoroughly mishandled Lowe’s hiring and departure.
Lowe’s allegations were damning. For example, she claimed that Idaho Transportation Board member Gary Blick had this to say upon her 2006 hiring: “No little girl would be able to run this department. ... What are we going to do when she decides to start a family?” She also claims she was targeted because she tried to scale back an ITD contract that had grown from $50 million to $100 million, to the benefit of two of Gov. Butch Otter’s corporate campaign contributors, Washington Group (now URS) and CH2M Hill.
We don’t know the state’s side of the story. Or do we? We do know for a fact that the state finally opted to settle rather than dispute Lowe’s assertions in open court. For some as-yet undisclosed sum of money, on top of what was spent on legal counsel and public relations consulting, the state decided that its best course of action was to keep quiet and open up the checkbook yet again.
Something tells us there is a “high degree of interest” in the details.