OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Another chapter in the Swadley’s Barb-B-Q Saga unfolded Monday afternoon, as the Special House Committee looking into the controversial deal between the restaurant chain and the State Tourism Department held its second special hearing.
“If nobody can answer for the mistakes made, we’ve got a bigger problem. We’re planning to clear that up,” said Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, the chairman of the committee. “There seems to be a trend of a lack of knowledge or a lack of willingness to share that knowledge… It’s frustrating.”
This time, lawmakers questioned the State’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) Executive Director, Steven Harpe.
Harpe was subpoenaed by the committee for the first hearing about a month ago but didn’t show up. A social media post suggested he was out of the country.
However, on Monday, Harpe’s team told KFOR that the director “was given permission by the Chairman several days prior to the committee meeting to delay his appearance until the next meeting was held.”
During the hearing, Harpe testified that OMES Central Purchasing was not involved in the contracts in question.
“We really didn’t have a role,” said Harpe. “That’s the thing we’ve been trying to tell everyone is that there are certain statutes that allow agencies that have exemptions, some of the like the State Purchasing Act, for example, which is what we’re here talking about. So, Tourism entered into this contract a year before we’re even aware of it.”
“OTRD claimed an exemption in their own statutes outside of the Central Purchasing Act and did not utilize OMES Central Purchasing guidance of support for these contracts in question,” added Harpe.
He also said that OMES wasn’t aware of the contract until spring of 2021.
During the two-hour long hearing, Rep. Martinez expressed his displeasure with the lack of transparency he felt the director was showing during the hearing.
“We very clearly spelled out what we needed information on and all of those things fell within the limit to get those questions and so I’m a little frustrated because I think they’re trying to slow play a little bit of the conversation, not share everything,” said. Rep. Martinez.
The chairman added they plan to call Harpe back in for questioning at a later session.