BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax payer money to defend itself in a lawsuit from its former director, Pam Lowe.
On Saturday, a federal judge ruled ITD has to give a reason for firing Lowe from her position back in July of 2009. From here, the case could go into an appeal process or trial, but either way it's not over.
Lowe now lives in Delaware and said by phone Tuesday evening, it's been a long legal process since she filed a wrongful termination suit in November of 2009.
“We have had to make sacrifices in my own family in order to take this case and to try and get justice,” Lowe said.
Lowe's lawyer, Erika Birch, said for the better part of the two years both sides have been focusing on a due process claim which she believes involves gender discrimination and bullying from powerful lawmakers at the Statehouse.
“Pam was never given the opportunity to challenge her termination,” Birch said. “Now regardless of these gender issues or the political motivation or the whistle-blower, all we have to do to be successful in this case is show that ITD didn't have a good reason to fire her.”
The Idaho Department of Transportation has contracted with Boise law firm Holland and Hart to take over the case and represent the State. Attorney Knewal Squires says ITD has been vigorously defending itself against the claim.
“Ms. Lowe in our view was aware of the issues. She did have opportunities to meet with the board and discuss the issues with the board, and was provided an opportunity to respond,” Squires said.
However the cost to defend against Lowe's lawsuit continues to climb. KTVB obtained public finance records from the Idaho state controller’s office that show the Idaho Transportation Department has paid $540,479.62 in legal fees since 2010.
The ongoing cost of the case won’t stop there.
In a statement released Monday, ITD said; "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."
Lowe says what the state did was illegal.
“Unfortunately for the state I think they acted improperly when they terminated me for no performance related reasons that they were political, and unfortunately the tax payers are going to have to pay,” she said.
Neither Lowe nor her attorney have said how much money the lawsuit asks for. However, we do konw that it includes back-pay, benefits and salary losses. Lowe said she would also welcome a reinstatement back to her former position at ITD.
Lowe has since taken a job as the finance director for the Delaware Transportation Department and commutes back and forth to Boise for court proceedings.