AP: Otter Had Prior Knowledge, Tried to Warn ENA of Fed Cutoff of Broadband Funds 

click to enlarge Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter
  • Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter
How much did Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter know about the the state's broadband mess and when did he know it? It turns out that Otter knew quite a bit before telling many people, including the Idaho Legislature.

The Associated Press reports that a November 4, 2013, letter penned by Otter clearly states that he he was aware of federal funds being cut off to fund the school broadband program, but most of the legislature wasn't informed of the pending crisis until after the 2014 session of the legislature started in January.

4th District Court Judge Patrick Owen ruled in 2014 that Otter's Department of Administration had broken Idaho's procurement law after putting together a sweetheart broadband contract together with the Education Networks of America and Qwest (now CenturyLink). It was also later learned that two of ENA's staffers had direct ties of then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. Additionally, Otter's former campaign finance director, Martin Bilbao, was a former ENA staffer.

But it turns out that the letter that Otter penned in November 2013 was to ENA to assure them that he had directed his Department of Administration, then managed by Teresa Luna (sister of the school superintendent) to pay for the broadband program through the next fiscal year in lieu of withheld federal payments, according to the Associated Press.

What followed was a dismantling of the Idaho Education Network broadband program by the 2015 Idaho Legislature and a temporary funding fix allowing school districts throughout the Gem State to secure their own broadband contracts.

Ironically, on Tuesday, July 21, an interim committee of the Idaho Legislature will return to the statehouse to review previous expenditures for the Idaho Education Network and consider newer, long-term solutions to secure broadband access for thousands of Idaho students, educators and staffers.
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