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Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief of staff in mid-July asked state Treasurer Kevin Clinton to review the “investment value” of state prison food vendor Aramark, according to an email released Thursday by liberal group Progress Michigan.

“They don’t have have to do anything fancy, we just need to get an assessment of Aramark’s value, especially in light of the recent controversies,” Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore wrote in an email to Clinton that Progress Michigan obtained under a Freedom of Information request.

In late July, Snyder announced the administration would continue the Aramark contract, but under an agreement in which the company agreed to pay a $200,000 penalty and allow the selection of an independent overseer to monitor $145 million food service contract that began in December.

Other problems have included reports of drug smuggling by two Aramark employees, food shortages, too-close relations between workers and inmates and maggot infestations.

Progress Michigan accused the Snyder administration about being more concerned about Aramark than the state’s taxpayers.

“This email shows that his administration is concerned with what’s best for the investment value of Aramark,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan.

The Snyder administration countered that the group is aligned with the Democratic Party and “is throwing around wild, baseless allegations that are utterly without merit.”

“It’s our responsibility, and part of our due diligence, to check the financial condition of a company with a multi-year contract with the state, particularly if we need to determine whether the company has the resources to correct problems that the administration has identified,” spokesman Dave Murray said Thursday.

The Corrections Department indicated drug smuggling has happened with prison employees as well. Since Jan. 1, 2012, 10 state employees have lost their jobs for trying to smuggle contraband into state prisons, Marlan said.

Every new incident has prompted Democrats to urge Snyder to cancel the deal and restore the 370 state employees who were laid off. The governor has defended staying with the Philadelphia-based food vendor by arguing the state is on track to save $14 million a year through privatization.

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