This Week in Progress
Sex, Drugs, and Murder Plots: The Aramark Scandal.
This Week in PM Blogging:
We know you’re busy, so we decided to give you a media rundown of some of the best hits our accountability work with Aramark and the Snyder administration has resulted in.
For over a decade, state legislators have been making budget cuts that are hurting Michiganders. As a resident of Michigan, you should be worried about this because it directly impacts you and your family.
First it was drug smuggling, sex acts between workers and inmates, and maggots near the prison food. It can’t possibly get any worse than that, right?
The Aramark scandal is fit for nighttime TV drama
Think the plots of Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and Breaking Bad are scandalous? They’ve got nothing on Aramark.
It all started in March. The Michigan Department of Corrections fined Aramark for $98,000 for violations like food skimping, unauthorized food substitutions and improper contact with inmates. At this point, prisoners in Aramark facilities were no strangers to food shortages, it had been happening at Aramark-ran prisons in other states for years.
A few weeks later, an Aramark employee was arrested for attempting to smuggle marijuana into a prison in Jackson.
By now, we’re all just counting down the days until Governor Snyder announces he’s revoking Aramark’s 3-year, $145 million paid-for-with-taxpayer-dollars contract with the Michigan Department of Corrections, but time goes by and the contract remains in tact.
Then, in June, maggots are discovered near the food at a prison in Jackson.
Now, we’re all thinking that Governor Snyder can’t possibly let this one slide. His response to the discovery? “The most recent problems are not acceptable.”
That’s it. The contract remains in tact and we’re all wondering that if this is how Aramark runs its prisons, how can they be trusted with food services in our schools?
Fast forward to July. Four Aramark prison workers are caught on video engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct with inmates and an employee in a Muskegon prison is caught pants-down with an inmate. The total number of Aramark employees who have been banned from working in Michigan prisons by the Michigan Department of Corrections climbs to over 80 people.
Come August and everyone and their brother is calling on Gov. Snyder to cancel the contract, but what does he do? Slaps Aramark on the wrist with a measly $200,000 fine, which amounts to 0.00137 percent of the company’s $145 million dollar contract with the state.
Six months have gone by, bringing us to September. An Aramark employee is arrested in St. Louis for attempting to smuggle heroin, marijuana, cocaine and tobacco into a prison. As usual, there are no repercussions.
Enter, Progress Michigan. In emails obtained under a Freedom of Information Act, we discover that the director of the Michigan Department of Corrections secretly canceled the $98,000 fine levied on Aramark in March. Several pages of emails in the bunch were redacted, some illegally, so now we’re suing the Michigan Department of Corrections to let us read them.
Then, yesterday, the Detroit Free Press reported that an Aramark food service worker at a prison in the Upper Peninsula is suspected of approaching an inmate there about arranging to have another inmate killed.
That’s not all.
We also released another email yesterday that we obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request showing Dennis Muchmore, Governor Snyder’s chief of staff, asking the Treasury Department to conduct a “quick analysis of the investment value” of Aramark.
Hmm…why is the governor’s Chief of Staff concerned with the investment value of Aramark?
I’ll leave you with that cliffhanger for now. But stay tuned. We’re holding the Governor accountable and demanding that the administration immediately release all documents about the Aramark contract with the Department of Corrections to the public.