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Attorney general to review contract tied to Oklahoma senator-lobbyist affair

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson will review the process used to award a contract to a client of lobbyist Haley Atwood, who has been having an extramarital affair with state Sen. Harry Coates.
BY JOHN ESTUS jestus@opubco.com Modified: December 7, 2010 at 9:29 am •  Published: December 7, 2010
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Coates, R-Seminole, has said he welcomes scrutiny of the bidding process because “there were no shenanigans.”

The state Central Services Department evaluated five bids for the contract.

Did bid meet request?

Christian last month announced intentions to award the contract to an Ada group that had retained Rite of Passage to operate a new 144-bed private juvenile academy in Ada.

Before being hired as a consultant by Rite of Passage, Atwood was hired as a lobbyist with the architect chosen to design Ada's proposed Rite of Passage academy. Atwood, Coates and Christian have since met several times about the project, records and interviews show.

Christian, Coates, Atwood and other legislators visited a Rite of Passage academy in Colorado while discussions were under way about building a juvenile center in Oklahoma.

A meeting between Coates and Christian was scheduled in Coates' office on the day the governor signed a bill asking the Office of Juvenile Affairs to seek bids for a new juvenile center, records show.

The agency's subsequent request for proposals asked for maximum-security beds at the new juvenile center.

The Rite of Passage academy in Ada would be a campuslike setting with no secure beds.

The Ada group also proposed adding 56 secure beds to an existing juvenile center on state land in Tecumseh.

Failed bidders have said the Rite of Passage academy in Ada is unnecessary because it isn't what was requested.

A new juvenile center is needed because the problematic L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs is expected to close soon. Rader has maximum-security beds.