OPEA Calls for an Investigation of OJA Process

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association called for an investigation into the process used to choose a vendor for a new facility at the Office of Juvenile Affairs.

“The Office of Juvenile Affairs has been hiding behind a shield of secrecy in their bid to expend public funds on a private contract for a new facility,” said OPEA Executive Sterling Zearley. “Director Christian even admits to meeting with a representative of the vendor and a state senator promoting the contractor. Now, they refuse to release any information about the bid. The OJA Board and the Attorney General should investigate this process.”

“This is the first time OPEA has not been able to receive a copy of a bid or contract prior to signing,” continued Zearley. “There has been no transparency in this process and it appears to have been rigged from the beginning in backroom discussions between the OJA director, a lobbyist and a state senator. The taxpayers of Oklahoma deserve better.”

OJA Director Gene Christian announced the agency’s intent to contract with the “Rite of Passage” corporation for a charter school at a press conference on November 23. According to OPEA’s research, the bid from the Colorado vendor is not responsive to the request for proposal (RFP).

The RFP states, “Over time the general characteristics of OJA’s youth have fundamentally changed. The Office of Juvenile Affairs finds that there is a need for dedicated secure beds – especially maximum secure. The existing facilities are not designed to efficiently treat youth that are categorized as needing a maximum secure placement.”

“In spite of the expressed need in the RFP for secure beds, Director Christian has announced his intent to sign a contract for non-secure beds,” said Zearley. “When did the agency suddenly lose the need for secure beds? The “Rite of Passage” bid is not responsive to the RFP for a maximum security facility.”

“We hope the OJA Board and the Attorney General will call a stop to the contract signing in Ada next week and take a close look at the bid and the irregularities in the process,” concluded Zearley.

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