4th District Judge Patrick Owen’s ruled that Syringa Networks suit against the Idaho Department of Administration can go forward in determining whether the state’s contract for the Idaho Education Network project violated state law. Judge Owen rejected several other motions, including Syringa’s effort to expand the case to include a charge against Mike Gwartney, former Idaho Administration Director.
The state contracted with Education Networks of America to establish the Idaho Education Network, but the Syringa lawsuit has led to significant funding issues and questions about the bidding process. Federal agencies were supposed to cover some three-fourths of the cost of IEN, but those payments have not been made, in large part because of the ongoing Syringa litigation.
Future federal funding for IEN remains in limbo, and there is also a possibility that the state might have to reimburse payments previously received. Earlier this week the Idaho legislature approved $6.6 million in funding to keep IEN afloat through the end of June, 2014, but did not commit to further support.
To the surprise of legislators who were on an advisory council set up to oversee the IEN project, the Department of Administration recently extended the contract with ENA through 2019. That council was also not informed of the difficulties being encountered with federal funding.
One additional development in the IEN story: former Education Networks of America employee Martin Bilboa has been announced as the finance director for Governor Butch Otter’s re-election campaign.