State Purchasing Manager Mark Little started a new job at the Port of Tacoma on Nov. 13, a week after voters rejected the laptop mandate and other reforms authored by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.
Some Statehouse scuttlebutt alleges Little quit in disgust over improprieties in the bidding process for the contract to provide laptops for all high school students.
Asked if that's why he left, Little, 57, declined comment. "I don't know about that, but I don't want to talk to you," he said late Wednesday.
Little's official final day working for Idaho was Nov. 15. His boss was Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna, a sister of Superintendent Luna.
Teresa Luna said allegations of impropriety had nothing to do with Little's departure from his post, which paid $71,282 annually. She said Little left for personal reasons. Though it's more expensive to live on the coast, Little got a nice bump as director of contracts and purchasing, making $100,008 per year. The port employs about 250 people.
Melissa McGrath, Tom Luna's spokeswoman, said the bidding process was on the the up-and-up.
The state at first rejected all bids, but two weeks before the election on Propositions 1, 2 and 3, Tom Luna and Gov. Butch Otter announced with great fanfare that Hewlett-Packard won the $180 million contract.
Said Teresa Luna: "Mark told me he planned to leave the state so he could move to Washington to be closer to his children and grandchildren, with whom he has spent every spare hour he could find over the past several months following the birth of his most recent grandchild.
"Mark was a terrific asset to the state and his depth of knowledge will be sorely missed, but when he told me he was behind on making fly rods for his grandchildren and felt the need to be closer to them, I knew we had lost any chance of keeping him. I wish Mark all the best. He has been a good friend and worked tirelessly on the contract to procure one-to-one devices in the state. Despite the result of the election, I know he is proud of this work, as he should be."
Said McGrath: "I cannot comment on personnel matters, especially those in another agency. What I can say is that our agency had a solid working relationship with Mark Little throughout the process to procure 1:1 devices. The process was transparent and followed all policies and procedures set forth by Idaho Code and the Division of Purchasing."
Little is a former military man, widely known in state circles as a by-the-book guy. While polite in our brief phone conversation, he was firm about declining comment. "Please don't bother me again," he began. "I'm not going to answer your questions. I got nothin' to say to you, OK?"
Last year, Little's high standards drew attention when the Department of Administration issued a one-year ban on a Boise IT company from doing business with the state after allegedly double-billing the Department of Correction for $2 million in work on an inmate tracking system.
Little told a Correction Department investigator Jim Loucks that the contractor and his lobbyist came to him seeking state work "without going through the competitive process, just to be handed one or some such," in 2007.
Little told Loucks: "I can't just go out and give contracts out to people...without going through the competitive bid process."
You can follow Idaho Statesman Politics on Twitter.