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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Mike Gwartney

Idaho contracts under scrutiny amid ruling, report

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — In a ruling issued last week, the Idaho Supreme Court got right to the point: The Department of Administration's former head appears to have helped the state's biggest phone company win a contract. Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones wrote former Administration Director Mike Gwartney likely used his influence to steer business to Qwest Communications Inc. — and cut Syringa Networks out of the $60 million deal. The ruling allows Syringa to pursue its claim against the agency. But it also comes as state lawmakers pursue ways to improve the agency's contract monitoring. A measure has already cleared House and Senate. Idaho contracting has long been a subject of scrutiny, including a botched 2010 Medicaid management deal. A state auditor's report determined the process is plagued by inconsistencies and inadequate training.

Click below for Miller's full report.

Justices: Syringa can pursue claim against Idaho over purchasing violations

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Supreme Court justices ruled Friday phone consortium Syringa Networks can pursue its claim against the Department of Administration alleging the agency's bidding process violated Idaho statutes governing purchasing. Syringa sued Idaho in 2009, claiming the Department of Administration illegally handed Qwest Communications Inc. a $60 million contract to install the broadband infrastructure for the Idaho Education Network, an ongoing project to link public schools, universities and businesses in Idaho. A 4th District Court judge dismissed Syringa's lawsuit, on grounds it hadn't exhausted administrative remedies. But justices said there were no administrative remedies to exhaust. Among other conclusions, Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones wrote then-Department of Administration Director Mike Gwartney “appears to have been the architect of the state's effort to bend the contracting rules to Qwest's advantage.”

You can read the Idaho Supreme Court decision here.

Guv’s top aide has been a lightning rod

Gov. Butch Otter’s administration chief and close friend, Mike Gwartney, has been something of a lightning rod for controversy throughout Otter’s term in office, attracting the ire of state workers for proposing cuts to health benefits and clashing with lawmakers on everything from activities in the newly renovated state Capitol - a project he oversaw - to his plans to trim health coverage for state retirees and part-time state workers. Gwartney, 69, who’s retiring from state service today, is a retired corporate executive who served as chairman and CEO of Farmers and Merchants State Bank and chairman of Regence BlueShield of Idaho; was vice president for human resources at Boise Cascade Corp.; and was a member of the Idaho House from 1976 to 1982.

When Gwartney first was named head of the Department of Administration, Otter was planning to phase the department out; instead, it grew and took on new duties, including consolidating information technology systems for all state agencies and handling the controversial Idaho Education Network project to link Idaho schools with a broadband network; that’s now been shifted to the state Department of Education. In a 2008 interview, Gwartney said, “I’ve learned a couple things. You can’t run state government like you run a business. There’s more transparency, deservedly so. There are more people looking over your shoulder - the Legislature, the governor’s staff. But on the other hand, you can bring business practices to government.”

Gwartney leaving Otter Administration

Mike Gwartney, Gov. Butch Otter’s best friend and his right-hand man in his administration, serving without pay as the director of the Department of Administration, is retiring as of today, and his chief deputy, Teresa Luna, will take over his post on an interim basis. “He is retiring,” confirmed Mark Warbis, Otter’s communications director. “And Teresa is going to be the interim director at this point. She’s taking over the day-to-day for now.”

Jon Hanian, Otter’s press secretary, said, “This has been in the works for quite a while. …. There is a process for someone permanent to be selected, but we’re not going to rush that. … We’ll find the right person.”

More details on lawsuit over IEN bid

Associated Press reporter Rebecca Boone has filed a full report on the lawsuit that Syringa Networks filed against the state of Idaho today, charging that a multimillion-dollar broadband contract for the Idaho Education Network was awarded to Qwest, even though that firm didn’t have the lowest bid. Among the suit’s allegations: That state Department of Administration chief Mike Gwartney warned Syringa that its other contracts with the state would be in danger if it complained about the arrangement, in which Syringa’s bidding partner, Education Networks of America, was awarded part of the job but allegedly told to keep Syringa out of it. Click below to read Boone’s full article.

State faces suit over Ed Network bid

Here’s a news item from the AP:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Syringa Networks is suing the state, saying the Idaho Department of Administration illegally awarded a lucrative Idaho Education Network contract to Qwest even though Qwest didn’t have the lowest bid. In the lawsuit filed in 4th District Court, Syringa’s attorneys say an impartial evaluation team selected by the Department of Administration found the company was the most technically proficient bidder and also the least expensive. But, Syringa contends, department director Mike Gwartney decided to award the contract to Qwest Communication Co. anyway, depriving Syringa of an estimated $60 million in work over the next two decades. The work is part of an ambitious project to link public schools, universities and businesses over a high-speed broadband network. Gwartney and other department officials could not be immediately reached by The Associated Press.

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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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