Â©Copyright 2010, The Oklahoman
The wife of Sen. Harry Coates said Monday her husband has told her he is having an affair with lobbyist Haley Atwood. Atwood, 29, who didn't deny the affair with Coates, 60, also is married.
State officials last week announced plans to award a $10 million-a-year state contract for a new juvenile center to the Ada Youth
Rite of Passage earlier this year hired Atwood for consulting work.
Coates, R-Seminole, and Atwood have since been actively involved in helping Rite of Passage and the Ada group secure the juvenile center contract, records and interviews show.
Coates, who also didn't deny the affair with Atwood, said his relationship with the lobbyist didn't influence his decision to get involved in the juvenile center project.
â€œThat's a private issue and has nothing to do with the project,â€ Coates said. â€œThey are totally separate matters.â€
Coates said he supported Rite of Passage because the company takes a unique approach to juvenile corrections by running academies that help juvenile offenders successfully re-
â€œIt's not just another kids' prison. They really do have success,â€ Coates said.
Rite of Passage President S. James Broman said Coates was one of several legislators who supported his company's effort to operate the new juvenile academy.
â€œSen. Coates to me seemed like a dignified man that had a great reputation and was passionate about this project for making kids in Oklahoma better,â€ Broman said.
Broman said his company hired Atwood for consulting and â€œfront end work.â€
He said her involvement in his company's pursuit of the contract was â€œminimalâ€ and that she wasn't hired as a lobbyist.
However, records show Atwood and Coates met several times this year with Office of Juvenile Affairs Director Gene Christian, whose agency oversees state juvenile detention centers and programs.
Christian said last week Coates and Atwood sometimes jointly attended meetings with him about the juvenile center project and spoke in favor of Rite of Passage and the Ada group.
Coates and Atwood also jointly attended at least two early planning meetings with officials in Clinton, who were working on their proposal for the detention center, Clinton Mayor Allen Bryson said.
Bryson said their presence seemed odd, because Coates' legislative district doesn't include any of the cities vying for the project. He said they hired their own lobbyist when they learned Coates and Atwood were meeting with Christian, and Atwood was working for the competition.
Atwood also corresponded with Office of Juvenile Affairs employees about financing and operations for the new center, according to e-mails obtained by The Oklahoman.
Broman, the Rite of Passage president, said he had heard rumors about a romantic affair between Coates and Atwood but didn't know if they were true.
â€œEven if it was true, I just don't see how they could have influenced anything,â€ Broman said. â€œOur proposal consistently scored higher from a group of independent procurement officers than anyone else.â€
Coates and Atwood did not deny having an affair but declined to discuss it. Both said it is â€œirrelevantâ€ to the work they do at the Capitol.
â€œMy personal life just needs to be left at home when I go to work to do my job,â€ Atwood said.
Coates, R-Seminole, had previously denied having an affair with Atwood.
In an August interview with The Oklahoman, Coates said he and Atwood were working together on the juvenile detention center project but denied â€œvicious rumorsâ€ about their affair.
Coates in August said members of the Republican caucus started the rumors because he openly opposed laws dealing with cracking down on illegal immigration.
Atwood's husband, Nick Atwood, 32, is an attorney in Gov. Brad Henry's office. He filed for divorce in July.
Haley Atwood is pregnant and said in a counterclaim to her husband's divorce filing that she is pregnant by her husband.
Coates' wife of 41 years, Betty Coates, said she had an attorney draw up separation papers but hasn't filed them because her husband wouldn't sign them.