The Associated Press reported on Friday that state officials in Idaho may not move to recuperate public money paid out on a now void broadband contract. Idaho’s broadband expansion program – the Idaho Education Network – had its primary broadband contract voided in 2014 in court, a decision upheld by the state Supreme Court in March. The courts found that the bid process for the contract was handled incorrectly.
In the court order, the judge tasked state officials with recovering any taxpayer money that was advanced for the project. But, Idaho Department of Administration Director Robert Geddes said last week he won’t be pursuing a recovery action and added that in his view the money wasn’t advanced. The state typically pays for work that has already been completed. The broadband network was serving some schools at the time that the contract was voided, but the whole network had yet to be built out.
In addition, contractors on the project say they haven’t been fully paid for work that was already completed. If Idaho’s Attorney General Lawrence Wasden decides to pursue recovery of the money, the state could enter some murky legal waters.
At the end of the state legislature’s 2016 session, the state earmarked money for any legal fees if the contractors opt to sue the state over backpay.
Schools in Idaho have been making up for the loss of the network by managing their own service agreements with local broadband providers and getting some financial assistance from the state to pay for those subscriptions. It appears that Idaho will continue this kind of piecemeal process for state schools in lieu of a larger plan. Districts have also had to deal with the loss of some federal funding as the result of the Idaho Education Network contract dispute.