Gov. Butch Otter declined to comment on a Supreme Court justice's finding that Mike Gwartney bent state contracting rules to help Idaho's largest phone company obtain part of a $60 million contract.
But Otter said that no matter what happens as the case returns to 4th District Court, the former Department of Administration director will have his support.
"He was my friend before, he was my friend afterwards, and he's still my friend, and he's my good friend," Otter said Thursday. "If there were mistakes made, I don't know. But the courts will decide that, and however it comes out, Mike Gwartney will still be my friend."
Gwartney and Otter have been close for decades, including operating the former Lonesome Dove riding arena in Eagle and a land development business.
Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones said last week in a concurring opinion that Gwartney apparently helped Qwest (now CenturyLink) win a share of the contract to operate the Idaho Education Network.
The full court's 5-0 ruling allows phone consortium Syringa Networks to pursue its 2009 case against the state, claiming that it was improperly denied in the bidding for the project.
Gwartney told The Associated Press last week that he didn't try to help Qwest. "I want to assure you, every step of the process was vetted by those people, staff, very good staff, legal counsel," he said. "... I couldn't have bent the rules if I had wanted to."