State Getting To Foggy Bottom of Swadley’s Swindle…
11:24 AM EDT on April 5, 2022
Grab some napkins and a couple of wet naps! This Swadley's Foggy Bottom Kitchen situation is getting messy!
A few weeks back, we amplified a Frontier report about a costly deal the Oklahoma Tourism Department worked out with Brent Swadley to launch – and apparently subsidize – a chain of Swadley's Foggy Bottom Kitchens at Oklahoma State Parks.
Since that went down, lawmakers and law enforcement have now turned their attention to the controversy. Here's a timeline of everything that's occurred since last week:
1. Something called the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency presented a highly-critical report on the deal...
According to that report, the state actually blew over $16-million on the deal, ignored its own plans to open only one restaurant per year, and may have violated Oklahoma laws in the process. Give the Stitt Administration credit – They sure know how to run a state like a shady business!
2. Lawmakers troll State Tourism Director Jerry Winchester at a public meeting...
Following the release of the report, a panel of angry lawmakers held an open meeting to review its findings with Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department executive director Jerry Winchester. He's a member of the good ole' boy network who played college football over yonder in Stillwater and then got involved in the oil industry, and as a result, didn't need to be qualified for the job of leading a state agency.
The lawmakers grilled Jerry like a steak over a Foggy Bottom flame. They questioned him on the contract details, why certain puzzling decisions were made, and in the case of State Rep. Ryan Martinez, expressed frustration on why they weren't able to get in on the grift:
“You’re telling me that this offer was made to all kinds of different restaurants and vendors, saying, ‘Hey, open this operation. It doesn’t matter how you perform, how much food you sell, you’re going to have your losses covered,’ and people weren’t lining up to take that deal?” he said.
“Because I’ve been around people that run restaurants, I’ve been one of them, and they’d come running. They’d be coming out in droves. Because it doesn’t matter how many customers you have and you’re getting the management fees and all that other stuff. I just have a really hard time believing that.”
Martinez has a point. At the very least, you'd think Mackie McNear, Blake Shelton, or even Chad from down in Medicine Park would have submitted a bid or two.
In addition to asking tough questions, some lawmakers took the meeting as an opportunity to publicly troll Winchester. For example, State Senator Roger Thompson took pleasure in pointing out A) there's a double-bacon cheeseburger on the Foggy Bottom menu called "The Winchester" and B) the restaurant chain that's supposed to target tourists visiting a state park over a weekend is closed on Sundays.
To close a two-hour meeting Thursday afternoon that featured legislators grilling Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department executive director Jerry Winchester about his decision to spend millions on opening a number of Foggy Bottom Kitchen restaurants in state parks, Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Roger Thompson promised a visit to one of the controversial establishments.
“I’m looking forward to going on Sunday and eating a cheeseburger,” said Thompson (R-Okemah).
Thompson’s statement was sarcastic in nature, and it underscored lawmakers’ frustration with a new report about OTRD expenditures. The state-subsidized Foggy Bottom restaurants are closed on Sundays, and their menus promote a $14 double bacon cheeseburger named after Winchester.
Let's be honest – For $16-million in subsidies, I hope Brent Swadley did more for Jerry than just name a cheeseburger after him. With the way this story is now unfolding, we may learn that's the case!
3. OSBI is now investigating "potential criminal conduct between the state of Oklahoma and Swadley's."
Kudos to you if you had "potential criminal conduct between the state of Oklahoma and Swadley's" on your 2022 "WTF, Oklahoma?!" Political Scandal Bingo Card.
According to The Oklahoman, Oklahoma County DA David Prater – a grandstander who loves to sling his political dick around like it's a plate of Foggy Bottom's "Squatch Balls" being passed around a table – requested that OSBI investigate the case, something to which the agency happily obliged:
While the executive director of the state’s tourism department was defending his agency’s spending practices to an advisory commission Friday, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation confirmed it was opening an investigation.
Brook Arbeitman, public information officer for the OSBI, said the investigation comes at the request of Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who is seeking an "investigation (into) allegations of potential criminal conduct between the state of Oklahoma and Swadley's."
This state is such an embarrassment. If we're going to engage in "potential" criminal conduct with a restaurant, can't we make sure it's a good one? $16-million in taxpayer waste aside, I guess that's the part that pisses me off the most. We wasted all this time and money on a possible criminal deal to get a restaurant with "brand power," and the only thing we have to show for it are a few Swadley's "Foggy Bottom" kitchens. Even when our government is (possibly) breaking the law and screwing over taxpayers, they still find ways to screw things up.
Anyway, I guess we'll continue to follow this story and see where the OSBI investigation leads. Stay with The Lost Ogle. We'll keep you advised.
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