Karen Muno was packing for a family trip on the morning of April 25. It was supposed to be his first vacation in years.
I’m packing to leave and all of a sudden my phone blows up,” she said. His colleagues at Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen at Quartz Mountain State Park had sent a letter written by then-tourism director Jerry Winchester to a group chat.
The letter made it official: The Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation canceled his contract with Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen, which meant Muno was out of a job.
She immediately canceled the family trip.
“I didn’t go because you know, that money that I saved up to take that vacation – I have to pay my bills,” Muno said.
Muno, a career restaurant server for 40 years, had started working at FBK a few months earlier. The pay, equipment and culture made her excited to go to work, she said.
“It was just exciting because it was an opportunity to work at a really good restaurant,” Muno said. “It makes me emotional because it has changed my life so much.”
Muno was one of “nearly 300” employees who lost their jobs following the termination of the contract, according to a statement from Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen from that day.
Winchester wrote in the letter to Swadley’s that the state suspected the company of “fraudulent activity.”
The state’s agreement with Swadley’s is currently the subject of a state forensic audit, criminal investigation, and legislative committee investigation.
Swadley owner Brent Swadley and Winchester signed the initial contract in March 2020. Foggy Bottom Kitchen operated restaurants at six state parks, including Quartz Mountain. In return, the OTRD covered running costs, property renovations and paid Swadley’s monthly management fees.
The OTRD filed a lawsuit against Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen last month for breach of contract. Neither the OTRD nor Swadley’s has returned a request for comment on the contract since the filing.
Muno said she still wonders why the contract was terminated without warning.
“Why weren’t we allowed to know anything?” Why the silence on everything? If they knew this was coming, why didn’t they tell us? ” she says.
Another former employee, Dorothy Gaines, told News 9 that she bought a car a few months after starting at Foggy Bottom Kitchen, but might not be able to keep up with the payments.
“I was going to work hard to pay off that car, but I’m probably on the verge of losing it now,” Gaines said. “We came here, we worked hard, we did all of this, but there are no answers for us.”
“Greed has cost us everything,” Muno said. “Self-esteem, pride, all that. It’s just gone.