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News >  Idaho

UI lawsuits target insurer, Boise lawyers

The University of Idaho has sued its insurer and joined a lawsuit against two Boise law firms that provided advice on the failed University Place expansion in Boise.

The suit filed in Ada County District Court against Cincinnati-based Great American Insurance Co. seeks the payment of up to $10 million on a policy that insured the state against losses caused by any dishonest acts or omissions by employees.

It was filed by the UI and its foundation, whose efforts to expand the university into Boise fell far short of projections, left the university deeply in debt and resulted in a complicated tangle of lawsuits and claims attempting to assign blame and recover the money lost.

The suit says former UI President Bob Hoover, former UI vice president of finance Jerry Wallace, and former foundation member Roy Eiguren failed to faithfully perform their duties with regard to University Place, whose failure eventually cost UI more than $26 million.

It also says Hoover, Wallace and other employees engaged in dishonest acts and omissions, though it does not detail them. Hoover and Wallace lost their jobs over the revelations that the university had made undisclosed loans to the nonprofit foundation to finance the Boise expansion, but the university has said it will not sue them.

Great American – which could not be reached for comment late Friday – has denied payment on the claim, and the UI’s suit is asking a jury to force that payment and award attorneys’ fees and court costs.

The UI Foundation, which is also a plaintiff in that suit, filed an earlier suit against the attorneys and firms that represented them in the University Place deal. The university joined that suit as a plaintiff Friday.

That suit seeks $25 million and alleges that Givens Pursley LLP and Elam & Burke committed legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty during the creation of the University Place plan.

The suit alleges that the firms and attorneys approved or failed to challenge inappropriate or potentially illegal transactions and that they represented the university, the foundation and the project developer at the same time – described as “fundamental conflicts of interest.”

Attorneys for Givens Pursley have insisted that attorneys disclosed all potential conflicts and that the university and foundation were aware of the relationships and “believed this was an ideal approach for all involved.”

“There is nothing that the lawyers at Givens Pursley knew or did that both the management for the foundation and the management for the university were not also aware of,” said Bradley Keller, a Seattle attorney representing the Givens Pursley attorneys. “The lawyers at Givens Pursley are proud of the excellent legal work they did to try and help the university fulfill its dream of a Boise campus.”

In April, the Idaho State Bar Association filed complaints against attorneys Roy Eiguren, Ryan Armbruster and L. Edward Miller. Armbruster negotiated a settlement, including a public reprimand, according to the foundation. Attorneys for Eiguren and Miller have said they intend to challenge the bar complaint and expect to be exonerated.

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