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Eye On Boise

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.

Syringa sues Idaho over telecom bid

By REBECCA BOONE, Associated Press Writer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The telecommunication company Syringa Networks sued the state Tuesday, saying it illegally awarded a multimillion dollar broadband contract to Qwest Communications Co. even though Qwest didn't have the lowest bid.

In the lawsuit filed in 4th District Court, Syringa's attorneys claim an impartial evaluation team selected by the Idaho Department of Administration found the company was the most technically proficient bidder and also the least expensive but that the department awarded the contract to Qwest.

The contract is part of an ambitious project to link public schools, universities and businesses over a high-speed broadband network dubbed the Idaho Education Network. The state is getting $3 million in stimulus funds to build the network, with plans to invest more over the coming years.

Syringa says department director Mike Gwartney's decision to go with Qwest deprived Syringa of as much as $60 million in work over the next two decades.

The lawsuit names Gwartney, the department, its chief technology officer Jack "Greg" Zickau, Qwest and the Nashville, Tenn.-based communication company Education Networks of America as defendants. Education Networks of America had submitted a joint bid with Syringa under the department's recommendation, according to the suit.

Syringa said the independent evaluator considered the bids and found that Syringa's group scored higher in every technical evaluation category and had the lowest overall cost. The state eventually split the award, giving the Qwest the installation contract and technical network services and the education component to the IEN Alliance, the group formed by Syringa and Education Networks of America.

According to the lawsuit, Gwartney and Zickau told Education Networks not to use Syringa for any of the network implementation, and Gwartney warned Syringa officials that their other contracts with the state would be in jeopardy if they complained.

Gwartney and other department officials could not be immediately reached Tuesday by The Associated Press. Calls to Education Networks went unanswered.

Bob Gravely, a spokesman for Qwest, called the suit "completely without merit," adding: "We will defend ourselves vigorously."

Syringa is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages from the state and for attorney fees. It also wants the contract to be voided and a judge to bar Qwest from the work.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.