Idaho’s broadband legal bill tops $1 million

The state has paid close to $1.1 million to the Boise law firm hired to defend the voided Idaho Education Network contract.

The state’s Administration Department has paid Hawley Troxell $798,793.74, chief financial officer D. Keith Reynolds said in an email Tuesday. The Administration Department was in charge of overseeing the high school broadband contract — until the $60 million contract was thrown out in court.

Idaho Education NetworkAttorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office paid Hawley Troxell $269,700 to take over the case as outside counsel. Those were early payments in the protracted legal battle, made before the Administration Department assumed all costs.

The bottom line: The state’s payments to Hawley Troxell total $1,068,493.74.

However, this doesn’t include the money the state may owe to Syringa Networks, which successfully challenged the network contract in court. On June 30, Ada County District Judge Patrick Owen said Syringa was eligible for $930,000 in legal fees.

The Administration Department and Gov. Butch Otter have declined comment on Owen’s latest ruling. “(It) is an ongoing issue so it is not appropriate for the Department to comment,” Reynolds said Tuesday.

Owen has declared the broadband contract void — siding with Syringa, which says it was cut out from a share of the work. Attorneys for the state and broadband contractors Education Networks of America and Qwest Communications are appealing this ruling, and the state is contesting the order on legal fees.

Through much of the six-year broadband contract dispute, Hawley Troxell has been Idaho’s hired legal counsel, with much of the legal work outsourced out of Wasden’s office.

But Wasden’s office appears to be taking the lead role in one aspect of the legal struggle. ENA and Qwest are seeking at least $6 million in back pay on the mothballed project, and have filed tort claims with the state. The state did not formally respond to the claims, meaning the contractors are free to sue.

Hawley Troxell has declined comment on this decision, deferring to Wasden’s office.

But Hawley Troxell’s attorneys have filed several appeals on the state’s behalf in recent weeks — at continued cost to the state. Since March, the state’s legal bill has grown by slightly more than  $170,000.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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