Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, like Senate Education Chairman Dean Mortimer before him, questioned why the state would seek a “bridge contractor” to provide a service identical to the current Idaho Education Network for another year. “I think we all recognize that there’s a certain ambience around the current contract, and now issuing an RFP that is identical, now carries that same ambience and lack of confidence,” he said. “Help us with the decision as to why we should go down that road. … Who made that decision? I didn’t really hear an answer. I certainly know what the governor’s position is on it and respect that. I simply know that he and the rest of us want to see the IEN continue. But there are myriads of other options. Why was that option chosen, and why shouldn’t we be concerned that it will be equally as tainted and e-rate will not be affected because it has the same type of contract?”
Former Sen. John Goedde, now an aide to Otter, said, “This was the option that afforded the most transparency and the most opportunity for another vendor to participate. … Soliciting solutions outside the box was more appropriate for the long term, rather than trying to evaluate outside-the-box solutions in the short time frame we’ve got.”
He also alluded to Rep. Marc Gibbs’ earlier questions about the Department of Justice investigation into the contract mess. Gibbs said, “Obviously the way this building operates, there are rumors in every corner. Are you aware of … the status of the Department of Justice investigation?” Admin Director Teresa Luna responded, “Through the FCC USAC review, the Justice Department has been interviewing members of Administration, employees of ENA, and employees of Century Link regarding the initial contracting process. And what has come out of that, we do not have the details of that.”
Cameron asked, “Have we heard from them, do we anticipate hearing from them, has legal counsel advised you as to the potential issues surrounding that investigation and what may be involved or the responsibility of the state?” Luna said, “We know that they have reached out to three parties, ENA, the state and Centuray Link. We are actually meeting with legal counsel I think Monday to get an update on the latest.” ENA, which stands for Education Networks of America, and Century Link are the vendors in the voided $60 million IEN contract.