Swadley’s Bar-BQ has hit out at Facebook, posting a list of questions for state officials who are suing the company for breach of contract after the state hired the restaurant to renovate and operate six dining areas at state parks.
The list was posted on the social media site the same day Swadley argued in a lawsuit that the Oklahoma Department of Tourism owes the company $2.6 million. Days later, the state filed grand jury indictments against owner Brent Swadley and two others alleging conspiracy and fraud.
Many of the questions in the Facebook post relate to the points Swadley made in his Feb. 5 motion.
In the Facebook post, Swadley’s describes itself as a scapegoat and includes an image of the biblical David slaying Goliath. She echoes the court filing blaming state Department of Tourism officials for misappropriating funds and using Swadley’s to deflect attention from the agency’s mismanagement.
A spokesman for the state attorney general’s office, which represents the Department of Tourism, declined to comment and said the state will respond to Swadley’s court motion in due course.
Swadley’s, referred to in court documents as Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen, questioned why the state stopped paying the company months before the contract ended in April 2022 and why the restaurants were allowed to continue operating after state officials began investigating the company’s bills.
The post criticizes the state for not appreciating the work done by Swadley’s to renovate the restaurants. The state “instead chose to file an accounting lawsuit against Swadley’s FBK in a political election year,” he says.
Swadley’s also questioned whether the state had unrealistic expectations for the project and noted that the Department of Tourism insisted the company do work that included cleaning lakes, building boat docks and doing renovations to non-restaurant facilities.
More: Swadley’s Bar-BQ owner Brent Swadley, two others indicted, charged with conspiracy, fraud
In March 2022, the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) alleged that the state lost $12.4 million in taxpayer funds because there was insufficient oversight of the deal.
When asked by reporters Friday to discuss the ongoing lawsuit, Gov. Kevin Stitt said the government will hold all state vendors accountable.
“You’re going to have disputes with vendors sometimes, and we want to hold them all accountable. And in auditing, what I learned in school, is you follow the money. Let’s see if there are bad actors that can be prosecuted. “If there are bad state employees, they should be prosecuted,” Stitt said.
What led to the lawsuit between Swadley’s and the state Department of Tourism?
Following the release of LOFT’s report and amid ongoing investigations by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and a special Oklahoma House committee, the state terminated the contract with Swadley’s on April 25, 2022.
The termination of the contract was due to “suspected fraudulent activity found through highly questionable billing, invoicing and record keeping practices.”
Four days later, the state filed a civil suit against Swadley’s in Oklahoma District Court alleging breach of contract. Swadley filed an initial counterclaim on June 21, 2022.
Since filing its original counterclaim, Swadley’s has filed an amended counterclaim in September 2022 and two subsequent motions alleging the company is still owed money by the state.
The first motion, which included a report from an “independent audit,” came in November 2022 alleging the state owed Swadley nearly $6 million, while a more recent motion for partial summary judgment, filed on Feb. 5, changes that amount to about $2.6 million.