Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said he doesn’t want to be a “hotheaded prosecutor” and has no current plans to investigate a controversial state deal with Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen restaurants at state parks.
O’Connor, who is the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, said he hadn’t reviewed Foggy Bottom’s contract and is waiting for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to finish looking into the matter.
“So I just wait for them to do that because otherwise, you have a situation with a hotheaded prosecutor,” O’Connor said. “You have somebody in the AG’s office who’s got a very strong sense of right and wrong, a very strong sense of protecting the taxpayers’ money, but also a level head and doesn’t shoot before aiming.”
In the absence of action from O’Connor, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater asked OSBI to investigate the Foggy Bottom deal in March after The Frontier reported on millions of dollars the state had poured into remodeling restaurants, management fees and covering the company’s financial losses.
This week, Prater also asked State Auditor Cindy Byrd to conduct a forensic audit on Foggy Bottom and its deal with the state and work with OSBI to determine if any Oklahoma statutes have been violated.
“The alleged conduct has resulted in at least $4,500,000 in excessive payments to Swadley’s by the State of Oklahoma,” Prater said in a letter to Byrd first reported by KFOR.
“I haven’t looked at any of that yet,” O’Connor said Tuesday during a brief interview with The Frontier. “I’ve seen the articles but I have not looked at the contracts.”
The Foggy Bottom deal has so far cost Oklahoma taxpayers $16.7 million, according to a report from the Oklahoma Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency. As The Frontier first reported, the state paid Foggy Bottom at least $546,890 in additional management and consulting fees tacked on top of construction costs and restaurant equipment that were not outlined in the contract. The Frontier also found many pieces of the kitchen equipment priced significantly cheaper than what the state paid and many invoices lacked detailed information.
O’Connor said he’s waiting to see if there’s “actually a fire causing all this smoke” before getting involved, but would consider taking action if more evidence of wrongdoing surfaced.
“Every one of us is entitled to that type of deliberate protection of our individual rights from having unlimited funded governments come crashing down on us without having done their homework,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor’s hesitancy to look into the Foggy Bottom contract comes one day after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt hinted the timing of the stories surrounding Swadley’s might be politically motivated.
“It’s kind of peculiar that all this stuff happens on an election year,” Stitt said.
Stitt went on to say if there is “a vendor out there or there’s a contract that this contract or this vendor is not performing correctly, or overcharging the state, we will find that out, we will terminate that, we will sue that vendor, and we will get the taxpayers’ money back.”
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