Another probe of Okla. contract requested

Jessica M. Karmasek Jan. 25, 2011, 1:00pm


OKLAHOMA CITY (Legal Newsline) - A third review of the process used to award a $10 million-a-year contract for new juvenile centers in Oklahoma has been requested, according to reports.

Late last month, the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office said, for a second time, that the process did not appear to be compromised.

The signing of the contract was delayed in December after it was uncovered that state Sen. Harry Coates and lobbyist Haley Atwood worked together to help award the contract to one of Atwood's clients. The contract still hasn't been signed.

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

This time, according to The Oklahoman, it is Coates and the Ada-area group that won the contract that want a third review by new Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

The process has been cleared twice by former Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

Edmondson's office said in its most recent decision that it would be difficult for someone to manipulate the blind evaluation procedures that are currently in place and that the existence of an affair between a senator and an interested lobbyist is irrelevant.

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