OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A special investigative committee is having the first hearing into a controversial vendor agreement with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.
A report by the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, LOFT, conducted a four-month investigation into significant expenditure growth by the Oklahoma Tourism 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.‘
On April 28, House Speaker Charles McCall formed a special House committee to investigate potential misuse of taxpayer funds through vendor agreements with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.
During the hearing the first person to be questioned by the legislative committee was LOFT Executive Director, Mike Jackson.
“If they would have just had controls in place it would have saved Oklahoma taxpayers $12.4 million,” said Mike Jackson, LOFT Executive Director.
The second person questioned was Brandy Manek the Director of Budget Policy and Gaming Compliance.
She explained how her team reviews how agencies spend budgeted money.
According to Committee Chairman Rep. Ryan Martinez (R)- Dist. 39, says the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services, OMES, has not fully complied with the subpoena.
The Executive Director of OMES, Steven Harpe was also subpoenaed to appear on Thursday May 12 but he is out of the state.
In a letter to Speaker of the House Charles McCall, OMES says the agency is preparing the necessary documents for the committee to review and asked that Director Harpe be allowed to testify on May 18 upon his return to Oklahoma.
The committee has finished the first hearing on the controversy.
You may watch the proceedings in the video above.