Idaho lawmakers who agreed under pressure this week to pay $6.6 million to a broadband contractor say they were dismayed and alarmed to learn that the state last year extended the contract through 2019 – without informing lawmakers. The contract extension with Nashville, Tenn.-based Education Networks of America to operate the Idaho Education Network through 2019 is worth $10 million. The original five-year contract wasn’t up for renewal until January of this year, but last year, in January of 2013, the state Department of Administration opted to renew it early.
“We’ve got something terribly wrong – we’re on the hook for millions of dollars,” said Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, vice-chair of the Legislature’s joint budget committee. “It’s really a mess.” State law puts an advisory council that includes four members of the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee in charge of procurement of telecommunications services and equipment for the IEN. But minutes of that council for the past year and a half show it was never consulted about the contract extension or informed of the missing federal funds.
Keough, who serves on the council, said, “We’re supposed to have oversight, and the first I had heard about it was in January.” Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, who also serves on the council, said he, too, never knew until January. “I feel kind of like a mushroom, and you know the rest of that,” Goedde told Eye on Boise. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.