Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Discriminating Minds

I read with interest reports out of Idaho about the case of Pamela Lowe, the fired director of the Idaho Department of Transportation.

Lowe is seeking damages from the state, alleging improper termination and gender discrimination.

One of Lowe's complaints says that one board member stated, “no little girl would be able to run this department.”

The big issue, however, is that Lowe claims she was fired because she would not give in to pressure from political appointees to not cut contracts to certain campaign donors.

One report said that Lowe was terminated not because of her work at the agency, but because of her politics.

From an outsider's perspective, it appears that Lowe lost her job for two reasons. She refused to play ball with the politicos who wanted to make sure major campaign donors were encouraged to keep writing those checks.

Secondly, there were members of the board that governs Idaho DOT who were uncomfortable with a woman at the head of the agency.

Both of these reasons, of course, are bogus. It has become commonplace to find corruption in government. The headlines have become so common that we hardly notice. I was amazed at a recent scandal in New Jersey that even involved rabbis.

Now comes Pamela Lowe who loses her job at Idaho DOT not because of her job performance, but because she has the integrity to tell political appointees she will not cater to campaign donors.

The Idaho power elite should be ashamed. But they are not. I have been around this game long enough to know that people in power often have their own ethical standards and many hold on to discriminatory practices thought long abandoned.

Though it was, I believe, a secondary element in her firing, the fact that Pamela Lowe is a female should not have had one iota to do with how she was evaluated as a leader.

Discrimination against women and minorities is a stain on our culture. We would like to think we have moved past these archaic mentalities but the reality is we have not.

Discrimination is an ugly thing and whenever it rears its head, even in places like Idaho, more enlightened people should stand up and tell the power elite that it will not stand.

I do not expect to see it happen.

David Fierro is a transportation public relations consultant. He is a former newspaper and magazine editor and worked for both the Florida and Virginia departments of transportation. He resides in Sanford, Florida.

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