Gan Matthews, News 9
ADA, Oklahoma -- A state senator's relationship with a lobbyist has raised concerns that a contract for a new juvenile facility in Ada may have been unfairly awarded.
State Sen. Harry Coates is a 60-year-old Republican from Seminole. There are rumors the politician is having an affair with 29-year-old lobbyist, Haley Atwood. Both are married to different people, although Atwood is in the process of getting divorced. Neither is talking about the exact nature of their relationship, but some have questioned if their connection led Sen. Coates to steer a lucrative juvenile facility contract to Atwood's clients.
The attorney who represented the City of Clinton in the bidding process for the juvenile center said Sen. Coates would show up at strategy sessions in western Oklahoma with Atwood.
"These were night meetings, and Haley Atwood would come to those meetings with Harry. And it was an eyebrow raiser because of the strangeness to it," Clinton City Attorney Brent Clark said.
When the Office of Juvenile Affairs announced Ada had won the juvenile center contract, Atwood said her relationship with Coates, whatever it was, played no role.
"There was hard work," said Atwood. "There's nothing underhanded. The award was made, and some of the other groups that have cried foul had the same opportunity that we did. We just put together a better proposal."
The Oklahoma Public Employees Association has disagreed and asked the Attorney General to investigate.
"It looks to me like you have a state senator and a lobbyist certainly in a relationship outside the marital bounds that are co-working on a project that had $27 million implications," OPEA Deputy Director Scott Barger said.