Oklahoma lawmakers will ask about contract between state parks, Swadley’s

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — >>WATCH LIVE: Special investigative committee about partnership between Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen and the state

Oklahoma lawmakers will ask the tough questions about that contract between the state parks and a private restaurant group.

It has been a few weeks since the state Department of Tourism canceled its contract with Swadley’s over suspected fraud and questionable business practices.

The chair of the committee said he first wants to nail down all the facts and finances.

“Our job is truly to look at the structure that exists within state government that would allow like something this to happen in the first place,” said state Rep. Ryan Martinez, (R) Edmond.

Martinez said they will spend the first few meetings running through everything that happened between the state and Swadley’s.

“We want to figure out what the discrepancies were, how they found them, and they’ve turned over a whole bunch of documents, as we’ve requested, for the first subpoena,” Martinez said.

As the criminal and House investigations continue, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, (R) Oklahoma, is seeking proposals from vendors to replace the restaurants no longer operated by Swadley’s.

“We are going to make sure that we put the guardrails in place moving forward in this state agency and I’ll work with the legislature and the governor’s office to institute those changes,” Pinnell said.

The state is looking for a restaurant and general store operator for six parks.

“We are going to be fully transparent in this process, protecting taxpayers and the investment that we’ve made across the state of Oklahoma,” Pinnell said.

The request for proposals said there will be a five-year lease and a percentage of gross revenues will be paid to the park.

“Just the fact there’s a very public (request for proposal) happening will tell you that its progress, I will tell you the fact this committee is doing its investigation, that we have people’s attention, that a backroom deal with somebody is not acceptable,” Martinez said.

The special House committee will meet at the Capitol at 11 a.m. Thursday.