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Posts tagged: IEN

Still no answer on missing e-rate funds for Idaho Education Network, but some contacts made

Idaho still has no answer on more than $14 million in missing federal e-rate funding for the broadband network that links all the state’s high schools, but officials say they’re at least in contact with federal officials now. State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee today that he brought the issue up with the chairman of the FCC when the two spoke at the same conference a couple of months ago; in a phone call an hour later, “He said he had directed USAC to engage with us, and they did,” Luna said. “It definitely got the attention of USAC.”

That’s the agency that administers the federal e-rate funds, which come from telephone fees and were supposed to pay for three-quarters of the cost of the Idaho Education Network; it’s called the Universal Service Administrative Company. Last year, lawmakers learned to their surprise that the federal money had stopped flowing due to concerns about a lawsuit challenging the award of the contract for the IEN to Education Networks of America and Qwest; that stuck the state with the full tab, at least for now.

Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane told the lawmakers, who were gathered at Boise High School as part of a three-day interim meeting, that the Attorney General’s office has had a conference call and sent some letters. “They seem somewhat receptive, but they’re also skeptical,” he said. “We’ve got someone that we can talk to, at this point.” Kane said the state’s trying to impress upon the federal agency the point that the services are being provided – funds haven’t been hijacked to buy someone a yacht or anything. It’s just that there’s a dispute between parties who wanted to be the ones to provide the service to schools. “Generally, they’re looking for some sort of fraudulent conduct,” he said.

Teresa Luna, director of the state Department of Administration, said the lawsuit, filed by unsuccessful bidder Syringa Networks, is continuing; a hearing on several motions in the case was held May 6, and a ruling on those is expected in a couple of weeks. “I don’t expect that we’ll hear from USAC before … mid-August,” she said. “It is still our first priority.”

JFAC Co-Chair Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said after the briefing, “In some ways it’s heartening. I’m a little disappointed we haven’t made more headway with the lawsuit, but it sounds to me like the appropriate contacts have been made with USAC so we can at least make our case.” Lawmakers have agreed to cover the missing federal funds only through February; if the issue isn’t resolved by then, they’d have to ante up millions more or see the broadband network connecting the state’s high schools go dark.

District judge’s ruling allows Syringa lawsuit against state to continue

4th District Judge Patrick Owen has issued a ruling on several motions in the Syringa Networks lawsuit against the state Department of Administration over the award of the contract for the Idaho Education Network, and the outcome allows the case to continue to proceed. Syringa had sought to expand its case to include a charge against former state Admin Director Mike Gwartney, and Owen rejected that move; but like the Idaho Supreme Court last March, he ruled that the case can go forward on its key point: Whether or not the contract award violated Idaho state purchasing laws.

Owen’s decision includes a quote from the Supreme Court decision, noting that “All contracts made in violation of [Idaho Code 67-5718] are void and any money advanced by the State in consideration of such contracts must be repaid.” That’s the concern that the FCC has identified in holding up federal e-rate funds that were supposed to pay for three-quarters of the IEN's cost; those funds have been on hold since last March’s Supreme Court decision.

Syringa Networks appeals to Idaho Supreme Court in IEN bid lawsuit

Syringa Networks is appealing to the Idaho Supreme Court the dismissal of its lawsuit against the state of Idaho over the award of a multimillion-dollar contract for the Idaho Education Network. The firm contends that its bid would have cost the state less than the contract that was signed with Qwest Inc. and another firm; and alleging wrongdoing on the part of former Idaho Department of Administration chief Mike Gwartney. You can read Syringa's explanation of its appeal here, and its notice of appeal here.

Judge partially dismisses Syringa lawsuit

A 4th District judge has issued his promised new ruling in the Syringa Networks lawsuit against the state of Idaho over the big contract for the Idaho Education Network, and it has a slightly different outcome from his last ruling: He’s dismissing most of the case against the state, though one count remains, as do the other defendants, Qwest and ENA. Click below to read a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Syringa decision being reconsidered

The court decision that tossed out a lawsuit over the state’s award of the multimillion-dollar Idaho Education Network to Qwest is being reconsidered, after a 4th District judge said he forgot to consider a component of the case. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.

Court tosses out Syringa lawsuit

The Syringa Networks lawsuit against the state Department of Administration over the award of the multimillion-dollar Idaho Education Network contract to Qwest has been dismissed, as 4th District Judge Patrick Owen granted the state’s motion for a summary judgment. “It does appear that Syringa was cut off from participating in the work,” the judge wrote in his decision; you can read it here. But he found that Syringa didn’t show sufficient evidence of breach of contract in the move, and didn’t exhaust all its administrative remedies by appealing the contract award through an administrative appeal before suing.

“By ruling in our favor, Judge Owen vindicated the integrity of our purchasing processes as well as the integrity of our employees,” said Department of Administration Director Mike Gwartney. Gwartney said the court decision “will allow continued implementation of the Idaho Education Network,” a project to connect all Idaho high schools to a high-speed broadband network to expand educational opportunities for students.

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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