By Justin Lofton
ADA—According to the Oklahoman, an alleged affair between State Senator Harry Coates and a lobbyist has been linked with the Ada Youth Academy contract.
The Oklahoman said Sen. Coates’ wife said Coates, 60, was having an affair with lobbyist Haley Atwood, 29. The Oklahoman said Atwood is also married and did not deny the affair.
Atwood was allegedly hired for consulting work with Rite of Passage, a company hired to run Ada Youth Academy. The Oklahoman said Coates and Atwood were “actively involved” in getting the contract to Ada Youth Academy and Rite of Passage.
Coates said the contract had nothing to do with his relationship with Atwood. The article said Coates was brought into the project by Ben Graves, a Norman architect with the firm designing the campus in Ada and the addition to the maximum-security addition in Tecumseh. The Oklahoman said Atwood was hired by Graves’ firm as a lobbyist for 10 months.
“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 reintegrate back into society by teaching them life and job skills,” the Oklahoman said.
According to Rite of Passage President S. James Broman, Atwood was not hired as a lobbyist. Coates and Atwood reportedly met multiple times with Office of Juvenile Affairs Director Gene Christian. Broman said the Ada Youth Academy and Rite of Passage proposal scored higher from a group of independent procurement officers than any other proposal.
Both Coates and Atwood called the alleged affair irrelevant to their work on the project. Coates said protestors of OJA’s decision to award the contract to Ada Youth Academy are simply upset because they weren’t awarded the contract.
The Oklahoman said officials in Clinton—another city that submitted a contract proposal—asked that the contract be re-evaluated. Clinton Attorney Brent Clark said no other contract proposals were fairly evaluated.