CenturyLink sues over Idaho Education Network mess

Both of the lead vendors on the Idaho Education Network filed lawsuits Friday — days after Attorney General Lawrence Wasden sought back payments from the companies.

CenturyLink filed suit in U.S. District Court in Boise. The 34-page complaint seeks unspecified damages from the state — although the telecommunications company estimates its damages at more than $18.5 million, plus interest. (Idaho Education News reported Friday on the lawsuit filed by lead vendor Education Networks of America. Click here for our coverage.)

CenturyLink and ENA were awarded the contract for the Idaho Education Network, a statewide high school broadband system. But as the legal dispute over the network contract unfolded in state courts, the state cut off payments to the vendors.

A district judge and the state Supreme Court have both ruled the network’s contract void, and the state has shut down the project. But ENA and CenturyLink still argue that they should receive back payments for services they provided to the state.

The separate but similar lawsuits also seem to be fueled by another development in the Idaho Education Network aftermath. Earlier this month, Wasden demanded that CenturyLink and ENA return the money the state had paid them. Under state law, vendors cannot receive payment from an illegal contract, and the Supreme Court ordered the state to seek repayments from CenturyLink and ENA.

In late July, state Department of Administration Director Robert Geddes declined to seek repayment from the vendors. In a letter to Wasden, Geddes argued that vendors had only been paid for services they had provided to the state.

State officials have said little about this latest chapter in the 7-year-old Idaho Education Network legal battle. Wasden’s office has not responded to requests for comment on the lawsuits, or the demand for repayments. Gov. Butch Otter’s office declined comment, as did Geddes.