Will Idaho Seek $30 Million Back From Broadband Contractors?

Mar 3, 2015

Contractors have received $29.7 million under the voided Idaho Education Network contract.

Should the state try to get this money back?

It’s one of the many legal issues surrounding the defunct statewide broadband system. And it’s one many state officials don’t want to talk about.

Syringa Networks, the Boise-based company that successfully sued under the contract, has argued in court documents that the state’s Department of Administration needs to seek money back from its network contractors, Education Networks of America, which has received $29.3 million under the contract, and CenturyLink, which has received $400,000 from the state.

Syringa points to a section of state law, that says that any money advanced under a void contract “shall be repaid forthwith.”

“(The Department of Administration’s) obligation to comply with the statute is mandatory,” David Lombardi, an attorney for Syringa, wrote in a Dec. 23 court document.

The Idaho Education Network contract is null and void; District Judge Patrick Owen has tossed it out. In response to Owen’s ruling, the Department of Administration has cut off contractor payments.

But what about past payments to the contractors — a hodgepodge of state general fund dollars, “e-Rate” dollars from cell phone and landline bills, federal economic stimulus dollars, and grant money from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation?

No one’s saying much.

“We will respond in due course to the court filings of Syringa,” said Merlyn Clark, an attorney with the Boise firm Hawley Troxell Ennis and Hawley. The state has hired Hawley Troxell to defend the 2009 Idaho Education Network contract — at a taxpayer cost, to date, of more than $627,000.

Idaho Education Network spokeswoman Camille Wells also declined comment — deferring to the attorney general’s office, which has not been actively involved in defending the contract. Todd Dvorak, a spokesman for Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, also declined comment.

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