By Loné Beasley
A $10 million state contract to construct a youth academy in Ada will undergo a more intensive review by Oklahoma’s attorney general, according to The Oklahoman. A state senator from Seminole and a lobbyist for Rite of Passage, the firm designated to manage the facility, are accused of having an affair, prompting some to question the objectivity of the decision making process.
Just last week the attorney general’s office said it saw no reason to pursue the matter after discussing the issue with Department of Central Services, the agency responsible for vetting the project.
A more in-depth assessment was decided upon after Senate Pro Tem-elect Brian Bingman met with First Assistant Attorney General Tom Gruber and reportedly presented new evidence. “They presented us with some paperwork that we had not previously seen,” The Oklahoman quotes a spokesman for the attorney general’s office as saying. The official would not reveal the contents of information.
The attorney general’s review will reportedly focus on the process used to award the contract.
Local officials say they have no reason to fear a review and, in fact, welcome it. “We are confident that the process was fair and equitable, and when the true facts are shown this will be borne out,” said Greg Pierce, chairman of the Ada Youth Authority Trust, the effort initiated by the city of Ada to coordinate Ada’s attempt to secure the academy.
Dr. Steve Turner, who also worked on Ada’s proposal, agreed. “Sunshine is a good disinfectant,” he said.
Ada was announced the winner of the contract on Nov. 23. A contract signing ceremony set for Monday was canceled due a state Senate investigation. An Office of Juvenile Affairs spokesman said in a statement Friday that OJA anticipates a resolution by Jan. 5, 2011.
The youth academy is projected to add 115 jobs at an average yearly pay of $46,000. It will house children between the ages of 14 and 21 who are in the custody of Juvenile Affairs, none of whom will be violent offenders, Turner said.