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Rodent-nibbled cake served to mid-Michigan inmates

Gary Heinlein
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — A kitchen worker for the state’s private prison food vendor ordered cake that had been nibbled or pawed by rodents be served to inmates at St. Louis Correctional Facility in mid-Michigan last July, the liberal group Progress Michigan said Monday and a corrections spokesman confirmed.

The incident was discovered in tens of thousands of pages of documents the organization obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott said.

Scott blasted Gov. Rick Snyder.

“It is past time for the Snyder administration to come clean about all the issues with the Aramark Correctional Services contract. It is clear that without numerous FOIA requests none of this information would have been disclosed,” Scott said.

Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz said the incident resulted in the dismissal of a worker for Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services, the state’s prison food contractor. He said the St. Louis warden also immediately ordered the kitchen and eating area to be scrubbed down and called in exterminators, although it’s not clear anyone actually saw any rodents.

“It should never have happened,” Gautz said. “(But) I don’t know what (the Corrections Department) could have done differently” in response.

According to the incident report obtained by The Detroit News, an Aramark worker told an inmate food worker to stop throwing away cake that appeared to have been pawed or nibbled by rodents. The prisoner was told to cut away the nibbled or pawed outer portion of the cake and serve the middle part of it, but he reported the incident to prison authorities.

Gautz said the incident was among the violations for which Aramark last year ended up paying a $200,000 penalty in an agreement that also led to hiring of former Indiana and Florida prison chief Ed Buss as special overseer of the state’s food service contract. Buss worked for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, not the Corrections Department.

After less than five months on the job, Buss resigned for undisclosed reasons in late January to return to his wife and family in Florida. The department is seeking a replacement.

GHeinlein@detroitnews.com