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Special committee to investigate Tourism-Swadley’s arrangement

Hundreds of Oklahoma employees got raises despite budget shortfall
Posted at 11:13 AM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-28 12:40:07-04

OKLAHOMA CITY — A special Oklahoma House committee is being formed to investigate the potential misuse of taxpayer funds through vendor agreements with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department (OTRD).

Multiple criminal investigations began after a March report outlined questionable spending at the OTRD through the agency's now-canceled contract with Swadley's Foggy Bottom Kitchen in Hulbert, Okla.

The 15-member, the bipartisan committee will review the circumstances surrounding the now-canceled contract and other potential "concerning uses of public resources" and spending.

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, gave the following statement after forming the committee:

“We have zero tolerance for abuse of tax dollars. Law enforcement’s job is determining if laws were broken. This committee’s job is to determine if laws need to change to protect against future abuses of resources by state agencies. The committee will pursue the truthful answers needed for the Legislature to perform our oversight and policymaking duties in a manner that does not interfere with the active law enforcement investigations.”

Through a series of public hearings and document gathering, the committee will hear testimonies and relevant information for legislators to use as they consider policy and budgetary matters related to the OTRD, as well as other state agencies.

“Extremely troubling elements of the agency’s arrangement with this vendor have not been adequately addressed by those involved. We intend to get a full explanation for the taxpaying public,” McCall said.

McCall named Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, chairman of the committee. Martinez is also vice-chairman of the House Appropriations & Budget Committee.

“There have been too many incomplete, inconsistent answers to legitimate questions about how millions of tax dollars were spent. This committee will exercise proper legislative authority to get the full truth and provide the accountability necessary to remedy the situation," says Martinez.

Martinez adds that the Oklahoma Senate may "potentially [be] joining us in this investigation in the future.”

Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa, was named vice-chairman.

Gov. Kevin Stitt gave the following statement after the announcement of the bipartisan committee:

“I have called for more audits than any other governor in state history and welcome the Legislature joining me to protect the taxpayers and shine a light on any kind of corruption or bad actors involved in state government.

The state does business with more than 4,600 companies and I welcome a review of each one to provide maximum transparency for Oklahomans.”

Public hearings before the committee are set to begin next month.

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