John Estus, Steele's press secretary, said the speaker's only involvement in the Ada contract was asking questions about the bidding process to ensure it was handled properly.
“Several other parties had similar questions, so he certainly wasn't alone in his questioning of what would have been a significant, taxpayer-funded contract,” Estus said.
Steele's only involvement with the Tulsa program was to go there to look at the program; he made a similar trip to Ada a couple of years ago, Estus said.
“He never endorsed either community's plan over the other,” Estus said. “He just took trips to learn about those communities' interest, as any speaker would do.”
Estus said Steele was unaware of the new classroom at the Tecumseh facility.
Thomsen said after the meeting his frustration over the Ada contract “may have got the best of me.”
“The people of Ada for a two-year process worked on that, they had committed resources, land, people,” he said. “There would be an obvious economic impact for Ada. There would be an obvious economic benefit for the state.”
Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow, said he was surprised by Thomsen's comments and hopes they won't distract from the need to educate juvenile offenders. He said he would like to see vocational training courses of at least 14 weeks included in juveniles' sentences.
Brent Wolf, director of the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau, said juvenile offenders who do not receive vocational and educational training are more likely to become adult offenders.