BOISE (CN) - The former director of the Idaho Transportation Department claims she was fired after refusing to heed warnings to leave a $50 million contract in the hands of Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's big campaign contributors. Pamela Lowe, the first female director of the department, said the governor's former chief of staff Jeff Malmen and chairman of the Idaho Transportation Board Darrell Manning were "extremely upset" after she told legislators about her plan to renegotiate the contract.
In her complaint in Ada County Court, Lowe says she was trying to save public money by putting more work into the hands of department employees.
She says she "was repeatedly warned and harassed by the governor's staff and Mr. Manning about taking work away" from the private companies. But Lowe says she was "determined to do what was in the best interest of the state and its citizens" so she removed several projects from the private contract.
The two companies that held the contract are collectively known as Connecting Idaho Partners; company members and their families made significant campaign contributions to Gov. Otter and state Senator John McGee, Chairman of the Idaho Senate Transportation Committee, according to the complaint.
Lowe says McGee introduced a bill to give the governor power to fire the director of the Transportation Department, but because members of the Idaho Transportation Board promised him they would "get rid of" Lowe, he agreed to hold up the bill in committee.
Just three days after that legislative session ended, the Transportation Board chairman asked Lowe for her resignation, she says.
Lowe said she refused to resign because the board's reasons were insufficient. She says she received good performance reviews from the time she began working with the Transportation Department in 1993 to her promotion to director in 2006.
After Lowe was fired, she says the board refused to grant her a hearing to challenge the firing. She seeks back pay, reinstatement or front pay in lieu of reinstatement.
She is represented by Erika Burch with Strindberg & Scholnick.
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