OKLAHOMA CITY — When Oklahoma’s legislative session gets underway next month, it’s unclear whether a special legislative committee will continue digging into a sweetheart deal a state agency inked with a local barbecue chain.
The House Special Investigative Committee examining the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s previous relationship with Swadley’s Bar-B-Q to operate state park restaurants was paused until new Attorney General Gentner Drummond takes office, House GOP spokesman Daniel Seitz said Friday.
Drummond was sworn in Monday along with Gov. Kevin Stitt and other statewide officials. It’s not immediately clear what Drummond may do about the now-defunct Swadley’s deal that spurred a criminal probe, an audit, a state lawsuit and numerous questions about why the business appeared to be overpaid for its work.
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House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, on Friday released a list of committees for the upcoming legislative session. The bipartisan investigative committee wasn’t included. Seitz said that’s because the investigative committee, which meets as needed, is different from permanent legislative committees.
“If there’s work that the committee needs to do, it can be revived whenever,” he said.
The committee met publicly twice last year after it was formed in April. McCall tasked the panel with getting answers about the Swadley’s deal and determining whether the Legislature needs to change state law to prevent a similar situation from happening again.
It’s unclear whether the committee has held additional meetings since its last public meeting in June. Chairman Ryan Martinez, who did not return a call for comment, previously said the committee may hold private meetings to hear from whistleblowers who wanted to remain anonymous.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is still investigating allegations of possible criminal conduct between the state and Swadley’s. There is no timeline on when that investigation will be complete.
Former Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater requested the investigation. But the Attorney General’s Office could play a greater role in the Swadley’s probe because Prater recently retired.
In a Monday news release, Drummond said his office will investigate recent allegations of government scandal and corruption, although he did not cite specific examples. He also said his predecessor, former Attorney General John O’Connor, shirked his responsibility when he left government corruption investigations to district attorneys.
Drummond’s office on Tuesday did not respond to questions specifically about the Swadley’s case.
April 2022 video: Oklahoma House to look into possibly fraudulent Swadley’s contract with state Tourism office