The failed experiment of privatization in Michigan

Our friends at Progress Michigan have just done something good. They’ve invested in a Robert Reich sound-alike to explain, in easy to understand terms, the true costs of privatization in Michigan. As fond as I am of my painstakingly-detailed and painfully-long rants on the subject, like my recent piece on the privatization of Michigan’s prison food service industry, the truth is, a four-minute video is infinitely more effective when it comes to conveying the importance of the subject matter, and the threat we’re facing from those, like Governor Snyder, who would like to see all public services privatized. And this, of course, is in spite of the evidence, which shows that, more often that not, costs have risen, quality has dropped, and corruption has increased, when we’ve handed these critical parts of Michigan’s infrastructure over to private hands… Here’s the video. If you like it, please pass it along to your friends.

Speaking of Aramark, the prison food vendor that was recently found to have been serving maggot-contaminated food to Michigan’s prisoners, it’s now being reported that the Snyder administration quietly forgave the $98,000 fine that had been levied against them by the State. And Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer, among others, is wondering why. In fact, Schauer is requesting that Snyder release all emails relating to Aramark, so that we might have a better understanding of what happened. “Schauer also called on Snyder,” according to the Detroit Free Press, “to immediately disclose whether Aramark Correctional Services of Philadelphia or any of its officials had donated to the New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify (NERD) fund, a Snyder nonprofit fund that accepted undisclosed corporate donations and which Snyder announced in October he was disbanding.”

Could it be that Snyder quietly forgave the $98,000 penalty because Aramark had been depositing big checks in his super secret NERD fund in the run up to this November’s race against Schauer, who, coincidentally, is now beating him in the polls? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, though, I think it’s safe to say that Snyder has been dishonest at best, in that he’s given the impression that his administration has been taking a hard line against Aramark, to the tune of $98,000, when, in fact, that wasn’t the case.

In related news, Snyder has refused to set a time to debate Schauer, which, I think, speaks volumes.

[It should be noted that, while the $98,000 fine against Aramark was descended, there are still other fines against the company that have not been.]

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10 Comments

  1. Posted September 14, 2014 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Interesting.

  2. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Farming, culinary arts, food service, and all the other domestic arts should be performed by inmates and not “hired out”.

  3. Posted September 15, 2014 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    “Domestic arts”

    Since when is providing food for hundreds of people living in an institutional environment on a daily basis done in the home?

    While I understand the point, the word choice is strange.

  4. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    I like the word choice because inmates should be given opportunities to make their prisons more homelike and less institutional. DIY home making would help with rehabilitation and life/ job skills.

  5. Sam Singh by proxy
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    When news broke that Aramark got off the hook for almost $100,000 in fines, I was shocked.

    As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I feel like I was misled to think that Aramark had been punished for their many mistakes, but that was far from the truth.

    When my colleagues and I asked tough questions about the Aramark contract, we were reassured that corrective action was being taken. To now hear from media reports that the fine was cancelled five months ago under pressure from the Governor’s office is a gut punch.

    Report after report over the summer reiterated the fine that was imposed and the Governor’s office never corrected it.

    Now I’m left with questions: Why is there no accountability with Aramark? Why were Democratic members of the Subcommittee on Corrections not informed of the cancellation? Why did the Governor’s office not correct media reports? Were they intentionally deceiving the public, media, and legislators?

    Lansing Republicans seem to think that the rules don’t apply to them.

    Special favors and shady deals have no place in Lansing. We need to take back control of the House so we can truly hold Lansing Republicans – and their friends, family, and wealthy donors they do state business with – accountable.

  6. anonymous
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Is it not conceivable that these $98,000 in fines were just bundled into the fines which were imposed later, which were significantly higher? If that were the case, though, Snyder would have said that to the press.

  7. Meta
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    From MLive:

    The Michigan Department of Corrections canceled a $98,000 fine against Aramark Correctional Services months before the Snyder administration announced another $200,000 fine for the private prison food vendor.

    An MDOC spokesperson on Thursday told The Detroit Free Press that the original fine, levied in March for various contract violations involving meals and improper contact with inmates, “never was paid.”

    The acknowledgement followed the release of an email thread between Gov. Rick Snyder’s Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore and MDOC Director Dan Heyns, who wrote on March 13 that he would “tone down my attack dogs, delay or cancel any fines and give Aramark time to solve the problems.”

    The emails, obtained by Progress Michigan through a Freedom of Information Act request, began with Muchmore forwarding a news story about lawmaker concerns with violations by Aramark, which won a three-year $145 million contract with the state in late 2013.

    “Do you feel you’ve got this under control?” Muchmore asked, suggesting the “attacks” were initiated by union groups, ostensibly upset that the state privatized a service previously performed in-house.

    A subsequent email from Muchmore was redacted by the state, according to Progress Michigan, before Heyns said he would cancel any fines.

    “We were concerned about losing control of a joint and told them repeatedly with no improvement,” Heyns wrote. “Our corrective action was too harsh.”

    The original fines, detailed in a series of letters from MDOC to Aramark earlier this year, were expected to be paid within 30 days. Up until this week, it was not known that MDOC canceled the fines.

    Read more:
    http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2014/09/michigan_corrections_cancelled.html

  8. Lynne
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I guess I will just say that “the people” will get the government they deserve and sadly, what the people of the State of Michigan seem to feel they deserve is to be lied to and cheated.

  9. Eel
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    If the Aramark CEO gave money secretly to Snyder, we should begin impeachment proceedings.

  10. Meta
    Posted September 17, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    News just broke that 5 inmates were found with heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and tobacco, which were smuggled into a prison by an Aramark employee.

    An Aramark kitchen food worker is facing charges related to drug smuggling after five prisoners at St. Louis Correctional Facility were found with heroin, marijuana, cocaine and tobacco Monday, a Corrections Department spokesman confirmed.

    In all, 39 packets of the contraband drugs and tobacco were found in a series of searches that followed an investigation, Russ Marlan told the Free Press.

    An Aramark Correctional Services worker was turned over to the Michigan State Police and is expected to face charges, Marlan said.

    Karen Cutler, a spokeswoman for Aramark, had no immediate comment when reached late Monday.

    The incident at St. Louis Correctional Facility is at least the second in which an Aramark employee has been caught smuggling drugs into a Michigan prison since the Philadelphia-based company began a three-year, $145-million contract in December.

    In March, an Aramark worker was caught trying to smuggle bags of marijuana into the G. Robert Cotton Facility near Jackson. He pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

    “It’s tragic,” said Mel Grieshaber, executive director of the Michigan Corrections Organization. “I don’t care if it’s public employees or private employees, this is the kind of thing that we’re always concerned about.”

    Read more:
    http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2014/09/16/aramark-worker-arrested-after-5-inmates-found-with-heroin-other-drugs/15694937/

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