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Eye On Boise

Judge Owen issues ruling on IEN, final judgment declares contract void

4th District Judge Patrick Owen today issued his ruling in the Idaho Education Network case, and his ruling went squarely against the state. Not only is the $60 million contract for the IEN void, the judge found, but also millions of dollars of additional work for state agencies that the state Department of Administration awarded to Education Networks of America and Qwest under the same initial contract. Owen entered a final judgment finding the contract void. You can read his ruling here.

Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, who serves on the legislative oversight committee for the IEN, said, "Those agencies are at risk. ... I've felt this coming for two years." Now that there's a final ruling, he said, "I'm hoping we can make some choices."

“This case presents the issue of illegality squarely,” Judge Owen wrote. “The bid process employed by DOA (the state Department of Administration) does not comport with state procurement law.”

Further, the judge found that not just the IEN work done under the voided contract, but millions in additional work for state agencies that the Department of Administration awarded to ENA and Qwest under the same purchase orders also was awarded illegally. That could have multimillion-dollar implications for state agencies including the Department of Health & Welfare, and their operations could be impacted.

 “The Court’s ruling applies to all work under the awards,” the judge wrote. “Apparently, DOA and Qwest have been providing non-IEN goods and services under SBPO 1308 and SBPO 1309 (state purchase order numbers under the voided contract) to other public agencies. … Both ENA and Qwest have received substantial income from other public agencies for work and services not related to the IEN project.”

Owen noted exhibits submitted in the case citing nearly $2 million in 2013 alone in non-IEN work for which Qwest was paid under the contract.

“DOA and Qwest argue that the Court should clarify its ruling and limit its decision to the work performed for the IEN project,” Judge Owen wrote. “In the Court’s view, because DOA improperly amended the awards to divide the scope of work, the amended awards are void regardless of whether that work was done for the IEN project or not. There is no basis for differentiating the non-IEN work from the IEN work. All of the work has been done on the basis of awards that violate state procurement law.”

“Clearly, DOA erred,” the judge wrote. “The Court did not come to its conclusions casually. The Court was well aware that DOA had used these awards to make significant investments in the IEN project since 2009. The Court also was aware that its decision likely would have a number of potential adverse consequences to schools and students.”

He noted, “The Supreme Court characterized the awards process as a ‘scheme to evade law.’ … The awards as amended violate state law and are void.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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