Smoke keeps flowing from Swadley’s “Foggy Bottom” Swindle!
1:47 PM EDT on April 18, 2022
Late last week, after news emerged that OSBI was investigating the smokey partnership between the Oklahoma Tourism Dept. and Swadley's "Foggy Bottom" Kitchen, the Oklahoma non-profit media converged on the scandal like flies at a picnic, not letting any juicy drippings go to waste.
Here's a recap of all the developments that have gone down since Friday.
The Gaylord-funded non-profit NonDoc focused on the pledge of Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell – glowing Oklahoman tribute here – to "amend" the contract.
Amend the contract? I know I'm not a government BBQ grifter, but why doesn't the state just cancel it and start fresh with a new chain that won't ripoff taxpayers and has, you know, actual "brand power." Earl's "Foggy Bottom" Kitchen, anyone? It's a pretty easy fix.
According to The Frontier, Brent Swadley – the namesake of your churchy Nazarene grandma's favorite BBQ joint – seemed to go out of his way to negotiate bad deals and make expensive purchases just so he could tack on extra "Management Fee" commissions...
In August 2021, Foggy Bottom billed the Tourism Department for two barbecue smoker pits from the Oklahoma City-based company Quality Food Equipment, priced at $51,346 each. The Frontier found the same model of smoker at another restaurant supply company priced at $29,570. The Frontier also reached out to the Missouri-based manufacturer of the smoker, Ole Hickory Pits. A representative said the same model of a smoker costs $22,700 ordered directly from the manufacturer, plus shipping costs.
Quality Food Equipment owner Mike McWhorter declined to comment.
Foggy Bottom Kitchen billed the Department of Tourism $107,442 for the two smokers and other related equipment and installation, plus a 15% management fee of $16,116.
Two quick thoughts...
1. $107,442 for two smokers + a management fee?!! I think you can get almost 50 2XL Big Green Eggs for that. What a rip-off!
2. If Swadley is doing stuff like that to essentially steal from the state, I wonder what shenanigans he may be up to with his other business venture – Swadley’s Disaster Relief Team. They provide disaster relief (food, lodging, etc.) to people following hurricanes, tornados, floods, and other disasters, which I assume means they deal with a lot of government contracts. According to the Ogle Mole Network, local investigative journalists may want to look into that one.
While NonDoc and The Frontier were going with the information provided by the government, Dave Cathey – The Oklahoman’s Food Dude – took a break from last week's batch of soft openings and talked to a Mole within the Swadley's organization.
They exposed some shady inside details:
If you read any of these articles, check out the one by Dave. If you care how your tax dollars are spent, it will give you more heartburn than a plate of smoked buffalo wings.
A review by The Oklahoman of invoices, receipts, emails and text messages along with interviews with the whistleblower provides a troubling look at the bills Swadley's charged to the Tourism department and that agency's oversight of the contract.
The state has paid Swadley's about $17 million in management fees and reimbursements for capital improvements. State records show the charges often lacked receipts. And the emails and text messages obtained by The Oklahoman raise questions about potential overcharges that were ultimately footed by taxpayers.
The alleged overcharges include a pair of used smokers that, when new, retail for about $29,000. The price Swadley's charged to the agency? About $60,000 each, including management fees, according to the whistleblower and agency records.
Honestly, I guess we shouldn't be surprised that Swadley would do something like that. The guy literally prints the phrase "Swadley's Values Family Values" on his cups, which knowing churchy Oklahoma hypocrites like we do, is a dead giveaway that he doesn’t have any values at all.
In addition to overcharging, the Food Dude's article also alleges that Swadley, Tourism Director Jerry Winchester and Gino DeMarco – one of Stitt's most loyal grifters – may have conspired to keep other restaurant chains from bidding on the contract:
Owner Brent Swadley entrusted the whistleblower with writing the bid proposal for the state parks contract in January 2020. Requests for Quotes had gone out to more than two dozen companies, but the Tourism department ended up receiving only the one from Swadley's.
The whistleblower said that's likely because months before the requests for quotes went out, he and Swadley took a two-day trip with Winchester and his deputy director Gino DeMarco — at DeMarco's invitation — to review the parks and their facilities. According to the whistleblower, Swadley and Winchester had met years earlier and had a previous business relationship.
At some point, discussion turned to how to make the Request for Quote unappealing to potential bidders, the whistleblower said.
"They (Winchester and DeMarco) were saying 'We'll just make the terms so nobody will be interested,'" the whistleblower recalled.
If the name Gino DeMarco sounds familiar, it's because he's the same guy who may have broken state law when he "misspent millions" for Stitt and Co. during the throes of the pandemic.
Although the controversy is, once again, shining a negative spotlight on his gaffe-ridden administration, Stitt doesn't seem very fazed by it. As a guy who's been banned from banking in Georgia, he probably appreciates what a swell job Swadley's done getting rich off the government.
In fact, his PR staff is now using the scandal as a weapon in their trademarked “troll the media” at all times communications strategy. Check out this tweet his Communication Bro shared on Friday:
Yep, while news emerges that Brent Swadley and the Tourism Department may have conspired to land Swadley a lucrative state contract, Stitt's Communication Bro throws the Foggy Bottom Winchester bacon cheeseburger some love on social media. What's next? Carly Atchison tweeting out some Swadley's management fee discount promo codes? Kevin Stitt sharing a family selfie at Swadley's during the next pandemic outbreak? Who knows.
For what it's worth, the controversy doesn’t seem to be affecting Swadley’s catering business in Oklahoma political ranks. A few weeks ago, an Ogle Mole sent me this pic of Swadley's being catered for lawmakers at the Capitol:
I'm not surprised that Swadley's is still a preferred catering choice for lawmakers. Most Oklahoma lawmakers have terrible taste in food and openly root and cheer for Government to fail. If their favorite BBQ place contributes to that failure and makes some money on the deal, they're going to support it and go back for seconds.
Anyway, I guess we'll continue to cover this story like salt and pepper on a hill country brisket. Stay with The Lost Ogle. We'll keep you advised.