On Monday, Gov. Kevin Stitt said he might call for an audit of the contract between Swadley's Bar-B-Q and the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, but he may not have to because Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater already has.
In a letter sent late Monday, Prater formally requested a forensic audit from State Auditor Cindy Byrd's Office in concert with the ongoing criminal probe by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
The letter makes an investigation by the State Auditor and Inspector mandatory, the auditor's office confirmed.
Asked if he would call for an audit into the scandal during a Monday press conference at the Capitol, Stitt said he would "absolutely" call for an audit but didn't want to pile another on the internal audit Tourism began last year. However, Stitt didn't dismiss the idea of calling for another.
"Can I maybe call for another audit? 100 percent," he said.
The OSBI launched an investigation on March 25 at Prater's request, five days before the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency released a report showing millions of dollars paid to Swadley's Bar-B-Q in its contract to operate Foggy Bottom Kitchens in state parks. The money covered monthly management fees, annual losses and general contracting for Swadley's to renovate and operate state property into Foggy Bottom Kitchens at six state parks and one that never came to fruition.
Stitt questioned whether recent headlines were politically motivated but assured taxpayers they had nothing to fear.
"It's kind of peculiar all this stuff happens on an election year," he said. "We will absolutely hold any vendor accountable and I'm looking forward to seeing exactly what happens and looking at all the invoices and making sure we have transparency with taxpayers."
The OSBI has met with at least one former Swadley's employee, whom The Oklahoman interviewed. Agents spoke to the ex-employee for about two hours last Wednesday.
District Attorney Prater wrote in his letter to the state auditor, "The alleged conduct has resulted in at least $4.5 million in excessive payments to Swadley's by the State of Oklahoma. I have reviewed the complaint and have concluded that a criminal investigation should be conducted."
In the letter, Prater asked Byrd's office to "conduct a forensic audit of the financial aspects of the allegations as well." He also asked the auditor's office to work with the OSBI as it tries to "determine if any Oklahoma statutes have been violated."
Andrew Speno, a spokesman for the auditor, said the request was accepted.
"The auditor's office can't call for an investigation itself," he said. "We respond to requests from the governor and district attorneys."
Byrd released the following statement to The Oklahoman:
“The State Auditor’s Office takes all whistleblower complaints very seriously. Per the Open Records Act, we protect any information shared through our fraud hotline. The State Auditor’s Office does not have statutory authority to open an investigation without a request from a designated official. All tips are pursued in a reasonable and timely manner as pending projects are completed.”
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: DA David Prater requests audit into Swadley's Bar-B-Q deal with Tourism