Progress Michigan announced this week that they would be running a television ad called “Maggots” highlighting the Snyder administration Aramark scandal. Their press release indicated that their press conference featured “small tanks filled with live maggots.”
Aramark isn’t very happy about this and sent them a “cease and desist” letter the same day of the press conference:
October 9, 2014
It has come to Aramark’s attention that the Progress Michigan Political Action fund (“Progress Michigan”) intends to launch a new television advertisement and road campaign today that allegedyly “seeks to educate the public about Gov. Rick Snyder’s mishandling of the state’s Aramark contract.” The media advisory you released yesterday states that you intend to represent the maggots that were discovered in Aramarkrun [sic] cafeterias, and a print out of the ad language will be made available.” The video advertisement, accompanying statements, publications (including yesterday’s advisory statement) and event visuals will contain material falsehoods and/or distortions about Aramark’s performance under the contract with the Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”).
The purpose of this letter is to demand that you and anyone connected to Progress Michigan immediately cease and desist from communicating, publishing, airing or causing others to air any false statements or distortions relating to Aramark’s performance under the contract with the MDOC.
As you know, the MDOC and the State of Michigan have specifically refuted and dispelled previous false reports connecting Aramark to the presence of “maggots” at any MDOC facilities. In fact, in an August 2014 press release, the MDOC specifically stated: “We investigated recent allegations connecting Aramark’s services to inmate illnesses and pests. We determined none of these incidents were caused by Aramark. Despite heavy scrutiny and challenges, Aramark has served more than 20 million meals through July with great efficiency.”.
Based on the media advisory that your organization released yesterday, Progress Michigan intends to nonetheless publish and air a statement to the public indicating or suggesting that Aramark was responsible for the presences of “maggots”. Any such statement or suggestion, in the face of the MDOC’s press release, would constitute a knowing publication of a materially false statement intended to injure Aramark. Please be aware that if Progress Michigan proceeds with advertisements containing false statement, Aramark reserves the right to take appropriate action.
Very truly yours,
Stephen R. Reynolds
Executive Vice President and General Counsel
What they say is true: the Snyder administration investigated the situation with the for-profit contractor that they privatized prison food services to amid great controversy, took a look around, and – surprise, surprise – found that Aramark wasn’t responsible for the maggots. Here’s the full statement:
Although Aramark is responsible for its share of problems, they are not responsible for every issue that has been raised in recent months. We investigated recent allegations connecting Aramark’s services to inmate illnesses and pests. We determined none of these incidents were caused by Aramark. Despite heavy scrutiny and challenges, Aramark has served more than 20 million meals through July with great efficiency. We are pleased with the new process for tracking Aramark’s performance going forward and will work closely with the company to make sure this partnership is a success.
The MDOC appears to be taking full credit for maggots in their prison kitchens, even though those kitchens are being run by Aramark. This is quite unlike the situation in Ohio where corrections officials didn’t fall on their swords and gave some of the credit for the maggots to Aramark.:
Union leaders and legislative aides were watching workers power-wash the kitchen of the Ohio Reformatory for Women yesterday afternoon when maggots floated out from beneath steel floor plates.
Prisons Director Gary Mohr then told The Dispatch that his agency accepts shared responsibility with meal contractor Aramark Correctional Services for conditions that have spawned maggots at the Marysville prison.
It’s never good when you’re being assigned partial credit for maggot spawning.
Still, when these sorts of situations are cropping up around the country, you’ll forgive those of us looking in ffom the outside for being a bit skeptical when the agency that has had to spend so much time defending its decision to outsource jobs to a for-profit corporation is the very same agency that is responsible for doing the investigation surrounding the maggots. Especially when they find that everything is just fine.
Progress Michigan’s executive director Lonnie Scott issued this statement regarding Aramark’s letter:
Within minutes of launching our new ad, we received a letter from the top levels of Aramark telling us to ‘Cease & Desist’. We don’t shy away from telling the hard truth, especially when public safety is at risk. We’ve got free speech, not to mention facts, on our side. The facts are clear: This Aramark boondoggle is Gov. Snyder’s fault and we need to hold him accountable.
The thing I couldn’t help but notice about the Reynolds’ letter is that is completely focused on maggots.
It says nothing about Aramark employees caught smuggling in contraband like cocaine and heroin.
It says nothing about Aramark kitchens running out of food and illegal food substitutions that resulted in the first $98,000 fine that was later quietly cancelled without notice by the Snyder administration.
It says nothing about inmates caught having inappropriate sexual contact with inmates. (One employee wrote “a 65-page love letter she wrote to an inmate with whom she was allegedly having an affair.”)
It says nothing about the Aramark employee who tried to hire one prisoner to kill another prisoner.
But Gov. Snyder’s folks have given the “all clear” on the whole maggot thing so I guess we’re all supposed to just turn away because there’s nothing to see here.
I have news for Aramark: this story is a long way from being over.