LANSING – House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) and Reps. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) said today that Department of Corrections (DOC) Director Dan Heyns and Gov. Rick Snyder need to be held accountable for cancelling the $98,000 fine given to Aramark last spring. The problems that led to that fine significantly worsened after that and Aramark was then fined $200,000 in August.
“Cancelling Aramark’s $98,0000 fine clearly sent the signal that they didn’t need to worry about their contract violations because the situation only got worse after that, putting DOC employees and communities hosting those prisons in danger,” said Greimel. “Emails show that Director Heyns was in contact with people from the governor’s office who, at the very least, knew that Aramark was going to get a pass on serious contract violations. Director Heyns and the administration need to be held accountable for abdicating their responsibility to hold Aramark accountable.”
Emails obtained by Progress Michigan show that Heyns was in contact with both Aramark officials and Dennis Muchmore from the governor’s office. Heyns was concerned that they were coming down too hard on Aramark and cancelled the fine to give them more time to fix problems. Aramark’s problems included unauthorized food substitutions, meal shortages, and serious instances of Aramark employees fraternizing with prisoners. According to a Sept. 11 Detroit Free Press story, the emails show that Heyns was concerned about losing control of a “joint” because of these problems, yet he still cancelled the fine. One email between Heyns and Muchmore in the sequence where Heyns talked about backing off with Aramark was redacted by the state.
“Maybe if the DOC and the governor had collected the first fine, the same food and Aramark employee problems wouldn’t have continued throughout the summer,” said Dillon. “The issues here are the safety of prison guards, prison employees, and families living in the communities where these prisons are located, as well as what was in that redacted Muchmore email. We were just lucky that prisoner protests over the quality and lack of food didn’t turn into riots. When it comes to contract compliance, money talks, and maybe in this instance the talk was about contributions to the NERD fund and maybe that was why that Muchmore email was redacted. Director Heyns and Gov. Snyder need to come clean about this with the Legislature and the people of Michigan. We deserve an explanation of why they thought it was okay to let Aramark get away with putting state employees and communities in danger throughout the summer.”
“As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, we have asked tough questions about the Aramark contract and were reassured that corrective action was being taken,” Singh. “This revelation, five months after the cancellation of the fine, not only makes me feel misled, but suggests this administration has very little respect for the legislative branch. The fact that the fines were canceled even after Director Heyns expressed concern about losing control of one of the prisons due to unrest over Aramark’s conduct is troubling. The disregard for the safety of corrections officers and for public safety is astonishing. Aramark’s performance only worsened over the following months. I think it’s time Gov. Snyder cancel this contract and become fully transparent about his administration’s dealings with this company.”