Now that the election is over, we can expect to see fewer attempts to leverage the unending stream of Aramark scandals intended to shame the Snyder administration over their disastrous decision to keep-on with the failed prison food contract. Right?
Apparently, some inmates didn’t get that memo.
Over the weekend, approximately 40 prisoners held at the Marquette Branch Prison, a high-security facility in the upper peninsula, launched a peaceful protest demanding an audience with Warden Robert Napel to discuss the poor quality of food service under the private provider. The Detroit Free Press reports that corrections spokesperson Chris Gautz described the incident thus:
“Before the warden arrived, staff had talked further with the prisoners and they left the yard. The prisoners agreed to give their grievances to their block (representatives) who then had a chance to speak with the warden about them.”
The Aramark contract should serve as a blue print for how to get it all wrong. Yet, Gov. Snyder won’t let it go, insisting the problems are merely “hiccups.” It would seem the only hiccups to be found are from the indigestion suffered by Michigan’s bloated incarcerated population (double entendre intended). At the same event where he made the remark downplaying the seriousness of the Aramark problem, Snyder called for action:
“Let’s make sure we’re showing appropriate oversight and let’s get it resolved.”
Last week, that’s exactly what House Democrats did when they introduced a package of bills designed to provide the much-needed regulatory oversight of the privatization of state services.
- HB-5889 would require the state to produce a reliable, detailed and accurate cost-benefit analysis for all privatization proposals. The Aramark contract has a dark cloud of suspicion hanging over it because it appears they sealed the deal by low-balling their bid, and are now taking dangerous shortcuts in order to turn a profit.
- HB-5890 would require an impact study prior to any privatization project detailing any potential job losses, effects on state and local businesses, and possible degradation of services.
- HB-5891 provides for cancellation protocols of failed contractual agreements.
- HB-5892 and HB-5893 will bring transparency to the process by requiring public disclosure for contracts over $500,000, and will create an online database.
- HB-5894 would prohibit automatic renewal of privatization contracts.
- HB-5895 would prohibit bad corporate actors from being awarded a contract.
These bills were introduced by lawmakers who were recently recognized by the watchdog organization In the Public Interest for their work. They are among a group of state lawmakers across the country that have taken a stand against the reckless waste of taxpayer dollars on failed privatization projects. ITPI noted that, nationally, 132 of the 136 legislators that ran for re-election on this issue won their seats. The above bills were introduced two days after the election, and two of the seven Michigan representatives were termed-out, with the others sailing to victory in overwhelmingly Democratic districts.
Democracy Tree would be remiss if we didn’t bring our readers up to date on the latest Aramark scandals. (Sorry, no sex or maggots this time folks.) These incidents all involve theft of some kind. One of the chief areas of complaint against the food vendor has been for underpaying their employees, thereby creating an environment that encourages misbehavior.
- Yesterday in Tennessee, an Aramark employee was accused of stealing checks totaling $1,285, along with a camcorder, from the Owen Graduate School at Vanderbilt University. The camcorder was recovered at a pawn shop.
- A couple of weeks ago in New Jersey, an Aramark employee working at Rutgers University was found to be collecting unemployment benefits while employed by the food company.
- Also two weeks ago, a former Aramark employee was indicted on charges of slowly pilfering $14,000 from a petty cash fund at the University of Maine in Farmington.
- A month ago in Michigan, an Aramark employee was accused of stealing between $50,000 and $100,000 from Aramark in the form of Walmart gift cards paid for by their client Oxychem. The cards were intended to be given as gifts to employees and contractors.