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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho school broadband legal bill nears $1 million

BOISE – Idaho’s legal fees to defend its now-voided contract for the Idaho Education Network high school broadband service are climbing toward $1 million.

A 4th District Court judge voided the $60 million contract this week, throwing into doubt the fate of the broadband and video-conferencing network that provides distance-learning courses and other services to Idaho high schools. The contract was issued illegally, the judge ruled, when it was changed after the bids were opened to cut out one of the bidders, Syringa Networks. The 4th District Court serves four counties in southwestern Idaho.

Idaho has brought in a private attorney, Merlyn Clark of Hawley Troxell, to represent it in the case. The state Department of Administration, in response to a request from The Spokesman-Review, reported that it has paid more than $605,000 in legal fees to date for the case.

“There are additional legal fees paid by the Attorney General’s office that are not included in this number,” IEN spokeswoman Camille Wells said in an email.

The department has been paying all the legal bills since fiscal year 2012, but in 2010 and 2011, the Idaho attorney general’s office paid out $269,704. That brings the total cost to taxpayers to date to $874,774.67.

State officials still are reviewing the judge’s decision and haven’t decided whether they’ll file another appeal; possibilities include asking 4th District Judge Patrick Owen to reconsider his decision, or appealing to the Idaho Supreme Court. But the Idaho Supreme Court already has ruled once in the case, and Owen relied heavily on its reasoning in his ruling declaring the contract illegal.