Special Committee to Investigate Tourism-Swadley Arrangement
Office of Speaker of the House Charles McCall
OKLAHOMA CITY — House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, on Thursday formed a special House committee to investigate the potential misuse of taxpayer funds through vendor deals with the Department of Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation (OTRD).
Following a March report from the Legislative Office of Budget Transparency outlining questionable OTRD spending, several criminal investigations were opened into potential misuse of taxpayers’ funds through the now-cancelled OTRD contract. agency with Swadley’s Bar-BQ.
In public hearings beginning next month, the bipartisan 15-member House Special Investigative Committee will examine the circumstances surrounding this contract and, potentially, other uses of public resources.
“We have zero tolerance for the abuse of taxpayers’ money,” McCall said. “The job of law enforcement is to determine whether the laws have been broken. The job of this committee is to determine whether the laws need to change to protect against future abuses of resources by state agencies. The committee will seek the truthful answers necessary for the Legislative Assembly to carry out its oversight and policy-making functions in a manner that does not interfere with ongoing law enforcement investigations.
Through a series of hearings and document-gathering activities, the House Special Investigative Committee will receive relevant testimony and information that lawmakers can use when considering policy and budget issues related to the OTRD and other agencies.
“The extremely troubling elements of the agency’s arrangement with this supplier have not been adequately addressed by those involved. We intend to get a full explanation for the tax-paying public,” McCall said.
The committee can compel witnesses and records through subpoenas if its requests to voluntarily comply are not granted. State law grants legislative committees the power to subpoena witnesses and documents. Evidence at hearings will be provided under oath.
McCall named Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, chair of the committee. Martinez is also Vice Chairman of the House Appropriations & Budget Committee.
“The contract alone reeked from top to bottom, and the continued revelations about the activities surrounding it were even more disturbing,” Martinez said. “There have been too many incomplete and inconsistent answers to legitimate questions about how millions of dollars have been spent. This committee will exercise the appropriate legislative authority to obtain the full truth and provide the accountability necessary to remedy the situation.
Martinez added, “We are also in discussions about the possibility of the Senate joining us in this investigation in the future.”
Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa, was named vice president.
“Maintaining and growing Oklahoma’s vibrant tourism industry cannot happen with a cloud hanging over this agency,” Boatman said. “Our goal is not to point fingers. Our goal is to determine what happened and provide solutions to restore trust in the agency so the tourism industry can continue to move forward.
The members of the House Special Investigative Committee are:
• Representative Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, President
• Representative Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa, Vice President
• Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa
• Representative Andy Fugate, D-Del City
• Representative Jim Grego, R-Wilburton
• Representative Justin Humphrey, R-Lane
• Representative Gerrid Kendrix, R-Altus
• Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond
• Representative Jim Olsen, R-Roland
• Representative Mike Osburn, R-Edmond
• Representative John Pfeiffer, R-Orlando
• Representative Jay Steagall, R-Yukon
• Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman
• Representative Kevin West, R-Moore
• Representative Danny Williams, R-Seminole
“Sustaining and growing Oklahoma’s vibrant tourism industry cannot happen with a cloud hanging over this agency,”
– Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa