Correction: The original story had a typo which has been fixed.
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – One of the big questions statewide is who is going to take over the empty Swadley’s Foggy Bottom restaurants at state parks?
You’ll remember the State canceled its contract with Swadley’s over what the State claims is millions of dollars in questionable billing.
That questionable billing is now the subject of a State Audit and Criminal investigation.
After that contract was canceled with Swadley’s, the State put out what’s called an RFP or a request for proposal.
The RFP gave other restaurants a chance to submit bids and come in and take over the operations at five of the existing restaurants.
“We are committing, we are committed to getting to the bottom of this. There are a lot of different investigations going on right now and I think we can all agree that the most important things are protecting the taxpayers and shining a light on any corruption or any bad actors,” said Kevin Stitt, Governor of Oklahoma.
The governor made those statements in April of this year, the same day then Tourism Director Jerry Winchester resigned, and the State filed a lawsuit against Swadley’s.
The Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen restaurants have since been shuttered, the contract with the Tourism Department cancelled, leaving several State Parks without dine-in food service for the busy summer tourism season.
“We averaged 9.5 million visitors to our State Parks for the last couple of years under Jerry’s leadership. we hit 12.5 million visitors this past year,” said Stitt.
The Tourism Department put out an RFP asking for restaurants to come forward and take over operations at five of the restaurants including Robber’s Cave, Lake Murray State Park, Beavers Bend, Quartz Mountain and Sequoyah State Park.
KFOR has learned the request has been extended until August 28th.
News 4 has asked the Tourism Department for an update, specifically how many restaurants have submitted proposals and why the request period was extended.
The Tourism Department not answering our specific questions, instead telling us, quote — “In order to ensure that this process is fair to everyone who may wish to submit a proposal, all inquiries about the RFP and/or our restaurant facilities will need to directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
KFOR responded via email with specific questions and they responded saying “Any questions regarding the RFP should be sent to solicitations@TravelOK.com. We cannot verbally discuss the current RFP.”
Just last month Swadley’s filed a counter lawsuit against the State and the Governor saying quote, “The State will happily throw its private business “partners” under the bus at the slightest hint of negative political sensationalism and rhetoric.
Noting that during the bidding process to take over restaurants at the state parks, Swadley’s was the only one willing to do the job, saying in their counter lawsuit, “When no other restaurants would step up”, the State turned to Swadley’s and that the restaurant was quote, “Very reluctant to take on such a massive challenge,” and that the State, “persisted and induced Swadley’s into a deal that it claimed would work financially.”
“Because of the ongoing lawsuit and investigation. We’re not able to take questions at this time, but we’ll keep you posted as things develop. Thank you,” said Stitt.
KFOR contacted the owners of reached out to Swadley’s owner for a comment, they declined to comment because of the pending lawsuits and investigations.
KFOR also made contact with the Lieutenant Governor, Matt Pinnell’s office but there has been no response as of publication of this article. Pinnell is not only the Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma but he also serves as the first Oklahoma Secretary of Tourism.