State tourism officials, determined to overhaul tourism in Oklahoma, micromanaged the renovation of park lodges and pushed Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen to spend millions, the company claimed in a countersuit filed Tuesday.
The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department abruptly terminated its contract with Swadley’s after the OSBI launched an investigation into allegations the company was overcharging the state.
After a state spending watchdog report found the OTRD spent more than $16 million in less than two years, lawmakers criticized the contract. The department ultimately terminated the deal and filed a lawsuit against Swadley’s alleging breach of contract.
In a countersuit claim, Swadley’s said the costs of the projects were pushed by Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell, then-Tourism Director Jerry Winchester, and then-Tourism Deputy Director Gino DeMarco.
“The truth in this case is the Stitt, Pinnell, and Winchester Tourism Department got exactly what it wanted with rapid construction of first-class restaurants during a pandemic,” the counterclaim read.
Winchester told a legislative committee in March that the lodges had long operated at a loss prior to the Swadley’s contract. “Would it be better, if we’re going to lose money on it, that we lost it on good food and good service,” Winchester said.
Swadley’s claims it initially did not want to contract with the OTRD because of the park lodges’ lack of profitability, and the need for extensive renovation.
The restaurant spaces in the six park lodges were in “a completely dilapidated and rancid condition,” Swadley’s claims.
“Once the cost of this project became a political hot potato for the (OTRD), it decided to ‘pass the buck’ on to Swadley’s,” the lawsuit states.
The Oklahoma Attorney General, which represents the state in the lawsuit, declined to comment Wednesday citing the ongoing litigation.
In the counterclaim, Swadley’s asked for damages for alleged breach of contract and defamation on the part of the state.