Legislator still miffed over failed juvenile center contract

A lawmaker became irked when he heard during an interim study that the House speaker had gone to Tulsa to look at an educational program for juvenile offenders.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: September 28, 2012
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A legislative study looking at job-training courses for Oklahoma juvenile offenders in state and county facilities struck a raw nerve Thursday with a lawmaker whose district had contended to get a new juvenile detention center.

Rep. Todd Thomsen became irked when told that House Speaker Kris Steele had gone to Tulsa to look at a program by the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau that offered vocational training courses to juvenile offenders.

Thomsen, R-Ada, said he blames Steele, R-Shawnee, for delays last year in awarding a multimillion-dollar contract to an Ada group working with a private juvenile academy operator and an architecture firm.

Allegations of bid rigging were made about the contract after it was linked to a state senator and lobbyist's extramarital affair. An attorney general's review found the affair couldn't have influenced bidding.

The Office of Juvenile Affairs eventually scuttled the contract for financial reasons.

Ada, Tecumseh sites

Thomsen said the proposal called for building a juvenile academy with little security near Ada and expanding an existing maximum-security juvenile detention center in Tecumseh.

Thomsen, a member of the House of Representatives Public Safety Committee, said he also was irked to learn during the panel's interim study that a classroom building had been erected in the past year at the Tecumseh site.

Thomsen blamed Steele for killing the Ada proposal, which he claimed would have saved state money.

“At no time did I have any kind of interaction as a positive from the speaker's office in an effort to help to follow up and implement that program,” Thomsen said. “For the people of Ada, it is highly offensive to then find out that the speaker of the House has actively engaged with other representatives on a similar program and yet never communicated with me, never communicated with the people of Ada.”