The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and their dealings with Swadley’s Bar-B-Q at the request of Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, the bureau confirmed Friday.
The investigation, which was first reported by NonDoc, comes on the heels of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency issuing a report that found the Tourism Department paid upwards of $17 million to Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen to run restaurants at state parks.
When contacted via text message OSBI spokeswoman Brook Arbeitman said the investigation is related to “allegations of potential criminal conduct.”
Last month The Frontier first reported on the contract between Swadley’s and the state Tourism Department. The contract said the state would reimburse Swadley’s for all net losses, capital improvements, and management fees.
“Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department will remain fully cooperative with any requests for information,” department spokesperson David White told The Frontier. “To date, we have not been notified of a pending investigation.”
During the LOFT meeting this week, Rep. Ryan Martinez R-Edmond said he believes the contract between the state and the restaurant incentivizes Swadley’s to be unprofitable. Under the contract with Swadley’s the state takes the first $100,000 in profits from the Foggy Bottom restaurants.
Also under question are a number of unusual invoices the state paid Swadley’s.
The state gave Brent Swadley, the owner of Swadley’s, sole discretion in contracting out for third-party vendors when it came to the restaurants. As a result, none of the vendors had to go through the state bidding or vetting process.
Swadley did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the former deputy director of the department Gino DeMarco.
On Thursday during the LOFT meeting Executive Director of the Department Jerry Winchester admitted that he “doesn’t know” if the department verified the expenses before paying the invoices given to the state on behalf of Swadley’s.
As reported by The Oklahoman, the bidding process is also in question as the operators of the state park restaurant previous to Swadley’s were not given the opportunity to bid, despite having a renewal option in their lease which was ignored.
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