(The Center Square) - Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday that Jerry Winchester, executive director of the state Tourism and Recreation Department, resigned and the state is suing a restaurant vendor that had a contract with the department.
A report released by the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency raised questions about excessive spending by Swadley's Bar-B-Q, which had contracted with the department to operate restaurants at state parks.
The Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation is probing the contract. The House of Representatives is also conducting its own investigation, House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, announced Thursday.
"We are committed to getting to the bottom of this," Stitt said at the news conference. "And I think we can all agree that the most important things are protecting the taxpayers and shining a light on any corruption or any bad actors."
The OTRD ended its contract with Swadley's earlier this week. The restaurants are now empty.
"All the renovations that were done at the different restaurants across the state are now the state's property," Stitt said. "Those restaurants are move-in ready and we're excited to get them reopened."
Stitt said that Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell will take an even "more involved" role in OTRD.
The governor said he was receiving questions about his possible relationship with Brent Swadley, the restaurants' owner.
"Let me be clear. I do not have any sort of relationship with Brent Swadley," Stitt said. "I don't know Brent Swadley. I have no involvement in this contract."
Stitt said he could not answer any questions due to the ongoing lawsuit.
Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, who is chairing the House committee investigating the contract, called Winchester's resignation a positive first step.
"The former director will still be called to testify before our committee, and we look forward to full cooperation from him, the executive branch and all other parties that will be receiving requests for testimony and documents," Martinez said in a statement.
via Oklahoma's Center Square News