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State auditor says investigative audit into Swadley's deal will begin 'very soon'

State Auditor Cindy Byrd speaks at an Oklahoma Second Amendment Association meeting, April 19, 2022
Oklahoma Second Amendment Association
State Auditor Cindy Byrd speaks at an Oklahoma Second Amendment Association meeting, April 19, 2022

State Auditor Cindy Byrd says an investigative audit into the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department will go forward shortly.

Byrd, who is running for re-election, spoke at an Oklahoma Second Amendment Association meeting Tuesday night. She said the investigative audit follows the opening of a case by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and a request by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.

“The OSBI is looking into this, and DA Prater has requested an investigative audit into these contracts which we will begin very soon,” said Byrd.

Those contracts worth at least $17 million are between the tourism department and Swadley’s Bar-B-Q, a chain of restaurants operating inside state parks. Byrd said her office will be looking at the possibility the state loaded up the deal.

“They took a large amount of taxpayer dollars, put them into the contract with Swadley’s to allow them to do things that probably should have been contracted directly.”

The Oklahoman reported Byrd’s office published a Mar. 7 operational audit. Byrd said that preliminary audit agreed with the findings of a Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency investigation.

“We both came to the same conclusion: there are some serious concerns about how the Department of Tourism is spending taxpayer money, and whether they’re following the required bidding laws,” said Byrd. “As things come to light, there are some concerning contracts.”

Byrd said her office is also looking into management fees.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.