Okla. AG approves of contract process

Jessica M. Karmasek Jan. 3, 2011, 2:23pm


OKLAHOMA CITY (Legal Newsline) - The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office said in a letter issued last week that the process used to award a $10 million-a-year contract for new state juvenile centers does not appear to be compromised.

The Attorney General's Office, in its letter to state Sen. Brian Bingman dated Thursday, points to an attached four-page memorandum from Tom Bates, assistant attorney general and chief of the Multi County Grand Jury Unit. The unit performed the review of the process.

The signing of the contract was delayed last month after it was alleged that state Sen. Harry Coates and lobbyist Haley Atwood worked together to help award the contract to one of Atwood's clients, Rite of Passage.

The state had evaluated a total of five bids for the contract to operate a new 144-bed "private juvenile academy" in Ada.

Coates and Atwood were allegedly having an affair while working on the juvenile center project.

Office of Juvenile Affairs Director Gene Christian also was implicated, with those bidders who failed to win the contract alleging he helped rig the process to favor the lobbyist's client.

Coates, Atwood and Christian all have denied the allegations.

Tom Gruber, on behalf of Attorney General Drew Edmondson, writes that last week's memorandum "speaks for itself."

Bates, himself, writes in the memorandum that "there does not appear to be any evidence that DCS procedures were compromised or that any undue influence was exercised during the RFP process at issue.

"Based on my understanding of the PIPS process as outlined above, it would be very difficult for someone to manipulate the blind evaluation procedures that are in place," he wrote.

Bates continued, "The existence of an affair between a Senator and an interested lobbyist is irrelevant due to the controls present in the PIPS system."

Gruber also tells Bingman in the letter that, at this time, the Attorney General's Office "sees no purpose in reviewing this matter further."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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