A state agency's board today will consider reviewing a contract dogged by accusations of bid rigging and linked to a state senator and lobbyist's
Board members for the Office of Juvenile Affairs meet this morning. On their agenda are three items pointing to a potential review of a controversial state contract to build a 144-bed juvenile detention center.
The center would replace the aging, maximum-
The contract came under scrutiny after it was revealed that Sen. Harry Coates, 60, was having a romantic affair with lobbyist Haley Atwood, 30, whose clients would have benefited from the Ada Youth Academy Authority securing the $10 million-
Atwood represented a Norman architectural firm that would design the center, and Rite of Passage, a Colorado-
Coates, R-Seminole, was among several lawmakers involved in legislation last year asking the agency to build a new juvenile detention center.
Board members today are expected to discuss their budget as it relates to the building of a new detention center, whether to conduct an internal review of what went on during the bidding and whether new bidding procedures need to be in place for the future.
Office of Juvenile Affairs Director Gene Christian has been criticized for what some say were questionable activities during the bidding process. Records and interviews show Christian often met with Coates and Atwood during the legislative session, made trips to Colorado and had dinner at a private club with Rite of Passage representatives the night before all bidders met with the agency's board.
Greg Pierce, chairman of the Ada Youth Academy Authority, said he plans to be at today's board meeting to defend his group's bid.
Pierce remains optimistic that the center will be built in Ada on land purchased for the project in November, days before it was announced they would receive the contract.
�We've been patiently waiting and we're sure we'll be moving forward soon,� Pierce said.
Lawmakers who have stalled the contact signing say they are pleased OJA board members are considering a review.
�We want this process to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,� Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-
He said juvenile affairs board members are doing the right thing by openly discussing the issues with the contract, and encouraged them to conduct a thorough review.
His comments were reiterated by House Speaker Kris Steele, R-