OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma restaurant is speaking out following concern from lawmakers and an investigation into a contract with a state agency.
Earlier this month, a report by the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency was raising eyebrows about a four-month investigation into significant expenditure growth by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.
The report focused on lawmaker concerns regarding a contract with Swadley’s Bar-B-Q restaurants.
Officials say the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department has paid $13 million to Swadley’s Bar-B-Q restaurants to renovate and run the Foggy Bottom Kitchens in certain Oklahoma state parks.
Those payments include $2.1 million to cover operating losses in 2021. The current contract requires the state to pay up to $1.2 million for annual operating losses.
After the cost of the contract was brought to light, several lawmakers and state officials have expressed concerns.
Recently, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has called for an investigation by the state auditor.
“The Swadley’s family is dedicated to integrity and loving support of each other and the incredible employees that have chosen to work for us. We also want to thank the many customers and guests who have recently reached out in support of our restaurants.
From the beginning, every aspect of the Foggy Bottom Kitchen project has been directed and approved by state officials. We stand by our team and all that we have done to benefit the people of our beautiful state.
Our objective has always been to offer an exceptional dining experience that is noteworthy and enjoyable for the visitors of our state parks. Foggy Bottom Kitchen’s intent is to benefit our state’s tourism department by improving tourism to our state parks. From this project, the state of Oklahoma has obtained millions worth of assets and Oklahomans now have access to the dramatically improved facilities at these state parks. Visits to the state parks have increased and the local economies within these communities have benefited greatly from the hundreds of jobs created in otherwise very rural areas.
Again, we are sincerely grateful for our valued customers and guests and their commitment to always telling others about the great food and service they enjoy at Swadley’s.
And finally, as a family and as a company, we deeply appreciate and value your support and kindness.”Swadley’s Bar-B-Q statement
OTRD officials declined an interview with KFOR earlier this month, but issued the following statement:
“Over the last two years, the Department has invested heavily in updating the state park system after decades of deferred maintenance due to underfunding. Oklahomans deserve a high quality state park system and we aim to continue our efforts to make that a reality. While being good stewards of taxpayer dollars, the Department has seen the installation of more than 100 new bathroom and shower units, modernization of RV sites across the state and critical infrastructure improvements. We respect the Legislature’s important agency oversight role and look forward to working together to continue improving the park system.”OKLAHOMA TOURISM AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON
Tourism officials said state park lodge restaurants have constantly lost money over the years. They said of the 25 businesses approached, Swadley’s was the only one that bid on the contract.