OKLAHOMA CITY (Legal Newsline) - Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson will investigate the process used to award a $10 million-a-year contract for new state juvenile centers, it was revealed Monday.

At issue is how the contract was awarded, the attorney general's office told The Oklahoman.

The signing of the contract was delayed last week after the newspaper uncovered 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.

According to The Oklahoman, Coates and Atwood were having an affair while working on the juvenile center project.

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

Coates, Atwood and Christian have denied the allegations.

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

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