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Oklahoma governor announces lawsuit against Swadley's, tourism director resigns

Posted at 1:54 PM, Apr 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-29 20:10:03-04

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell held a news conference Friday to announce a lawsuit against Swadley's Foggy Bottom Kitchen.

The tourism department announced Monday the state is canceling its lease concession agreement with Swadley's due to the restaurant chain's "suspected fraudulent activity and questionable business practices."

Stitt also announced the resignation of tourism department director Jerry Winchester.

Stitt and Pinnell responded to the initial announcement saying they support the tourism department's decision and audit of Swadley's. The state legislature since created a special committee to investigate the state's deal.

Swadley's released a statement Friday in response to the closure of its six restaurants on state park property:

“Swadley’s is proud of the work it has done in Oklahoma’s beautiful state parks. As part of an effort to modernize those parks, Swadley’s entered into a contract with the Oklahoma State Tourism Department in March of 2020 to redesign, rebuild, and revitalize six restaurants on state park properties. Despite the logistical complexities presented by the location of these restaurant sites, Swadley’s completed its work on the six restaurants in less than two years.

From the beginning, Swadley’s acknowledged and accepted that this project would be a difficult undertaking, but the extent of the decay and neglect at the various restaurants made it more difficult than either party initially anticipated. For example, when Swadley’s employees went to conduct an initial assessment of the work needed at Robbers Cave State Park near Wilburton, park personnel provided Swadley’s staff with a case (not a can) of wasp spray so they could safely enter the dilapidated property. Because of the years of neglect causing mold and substantial decay to mechanical systems, the Robbers Cave State Park restaurant was in such bad shape that it required an unanticipated total rebuild.

Another unfortunate complication was the COVID-19 pandemic, which increased costs of labor and raw materials during this project and was accompanied by restrictions on indoor dining and a general decrease in restaurant traffic. Despite these immense challenges, Swadley’s completed and opened restaurants at Lake Murray, Beavers Bend, Quartz Mountain, Robbers Cave, Sequoyah, and Roman Nose. The ‘before and after’ pictures speak for themselves (see attached).

Swadley’s is proud of the hard work of our employees, which brought the amenities at these state parks in line with the breathtaking natural beauty our great state has to offer. Swadley’s leadership team is disappointed by the recent decision to terminate its contract, and heartbroken for the hundreds of employees whose livelihoods are directly impacted.”

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