Another review requested of contract tied to Oklahoma senator-lobbyist affair

Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, on Sunday joined officials with an Ada group chosen to receive a juvenile center contract to call on new Attorney General Scott Pruitt to conduct what would be the third review of the bidding process used to award the contract.
BY JOHN ESTUS jestus@Opubco.com Modified: January 25, 2011 at 11:22 am •  Published: January 25, 2011

The agency announced in November that the contract would be awarded to the Ada group, which had proposed to build a juvenile academy with little security near Ada and expand an existing maximum-security juvenile detention center in Tecumseh.

Failed bidders have said the juvenile academy isn't what the Legislature or agency requested when asking for bids for a new juvenile center.

House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, earlier this month requested another delay of the contract signing so he could review whether the proposal met the Legislature's intent.

The contract signing previously had been delayed following revelations that members of the Ada group were working with lobbyist Haley Atwood, 30, who had been having an affair with Coates, 60, while the two worked together to steer the contract to the Ada group.

Coates and Atwood have said they pushed for the group to win the contract but have denied wrongdoing in doing so.

Previous attorney general's reviews of the bidding process found it was properly administered and that the senator and lobbyist's affair could not have influenced the bidding process.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office Monday did not respond to a request seeking comment on the request for a new review.

Thomsen said they also want the attorney general to look at others involved in the bidding process and give an opinion on whether the bid process is flawed.

“If it's flawed for us, its possibly flawed for other contracts too,” Thomsen said.

CONTRIBUTING: STAFF WRITER ANN KELLEY