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Swadley's investigation prompts Oklahoma lawmaker to file bill restoring Tourism Commission oversight

Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah)
Oklahoma Senate
Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah)

A state Senator is drafting a bill to restore powers to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission.

In 2018, the state legislature took oversight of the Tourism Department away from the commission. House Bill 3603 transferred those duties and powers to the agency's executive director, and gave the governor the authority to appoint that director.

Subsequently, the Commission was relegated to an advisory capacity only.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson said his legislation would return that oversight authority back to the Commission.

"Our responsibility is to the citizens of Oklahoma – the taxpayers who are footing the bills at Tourism," he said. "My legislation will restore important oversight powers previously assigned to that agency’s commission, providing a critical check and balance in how taxpayer dollars are used."

The Okemah Republican said the Swadley's Foggy Bottom Kitchen investigation and other challenges have highlighted the conflicts within the agency.

Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed former energy executive Jerry Winchester as the agency's director in 2019. Winchester resigned in April 2022, one day after the state House announced a special investigative committee to look into the state's now-terminated contract with Swadley's.

Thompson said his bill puts guardrails back in place, restores the oversight powers of the commission and helps ensure greater scrutiny of the use of public resources.

The legislation will be available for consideration in the 2023 legislative session.

Michael Cross is the host of KOSU's Morning Edition.
Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
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