Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs board scraps plans for Ada center

Board members for the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs cite projected budget cuts as a reason to cancel plans to ink a contract with an Ada group for a new juvenile detention center.
BY ANN KELLEY akelley@opubco.com Published: February 26, 2011
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Failed bidders have said the Rite of Passage academy isn't what was asked for by the Legislature.

Coates did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

Office of Juvenile Affairs Director Gene Christian has been criticized for meeting with Coates and Atwood during the legislative session, making trips to Colorado to visit a Rite of Passage academy and having dinner at a private club with Rite of Passage representatives the night before bidders met with the agency's board.

A group of Clinton community leaders and Avalon Correctional Services, a private Oklahoma City-based company, were among the bidders who lost out to Ada.

Clinton Mayor Allen Bryson blames Christian for the controversy and the ensuing cancellation of construction of a new juvenile detention center.

�It's on his shoulders now,� Bryson said. �If this internal investigation is done properly, I have no doubt it will show Gene Christian was heavily involved in helping Ada when he shouldn't have been.�

Christian told board members Friday the internal review will be done by the Office of Public Integrity within his agency. The investigator will report only to Siegfried and the agency's attorney, he said.

Christian said he asked that the review be a priority to be completed in a month or two.

Even though Siegfried indicated there are no immediate plans to rebid the project, he proposed the board seek an attorney general's opinion in hopes of clarifying aspects of the state law outlining the bidding process for a new center.

The decisions Friday did nothing to solve the agency's problems with the L.E. Rader Center.

Shutting down Rader is still a priority, although no date has been set for its closure, said Paula Christiansen, spokeswoman for Office of Juvenile Affairs.

There are 47 juveniles in the 72-bed detention center. She said other centers in the state could possibly absorb juvenile inmates who require maximum security.

Contributing:

Staff Writer John Estus