Aramark employees terminated for sexual conduct with inmates

Posted at 11:21 AM, Jul 16, 2014

IONIA, Mich. -- Four Aramark employees at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility have been terminated for inappropriate sexual conduct with inmates, according to Russ Marlan with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC).

It's a story FOX 17 News was first to break Wednesday morning.

Marlan said the workers were terminated  Wednesday and escorted off the premises after the warden reviewed surveillance footage from a food storage area.

Bellamy Creek officials and the MDOC are still investigating the incident.

Marlan said the Aramark workers were engaged in varying degrees of inappropriate sexual conduct with inmates.

"It was kissing, touching; it was not sexual intercourse," Marlan said. "That was not observed on camera. It was certainly inappropriate behavior and horseplay - things that should absolutely not be going on with our staff, our contractors and prisoners."

Aramark is contracted by the state to provide food service at Michigan prisons.

The company has been under fire recently for two incidents at Jackson facilities where maggots were discovered in food areas.

The first incident happened at Parnell Correctional Facility.   Roughly 30 inmates got sick after maggots were found just inches from a  food service line June 27.

Then, days later, workers at Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center found maggots in potatoes as they were preparing meals.  The warden ordered the food to be thrown out and the kitchen bleached.

"Our issue is managing this prison population and creating safe and secure prisons and instances like what happened today jeopardize that and we take that very seriously," Marlan said.

Aramark took over food operations in December 2013 under a 3-year contract worth $145 million.

Marlan says Aramark has been put on notice.

" We’re through this grace period," said Marlan. "We expect the contract to be complied with and then under the contract there are certain actions we can take to ensure that. At the end of the month, we’re gonna take a look at if there are any contract violations and what we plan to do about it."

Critics of Aramark have called on the MDOC, Gov. Snyder and the Legislature to end the contract with Aramark and re-bid the service.

Since the contract took effect Marlan says upwards of 80 Aramark employees have been banned from Michigan correctional facilities or fired.

"We share MDOC's zero tolerance for improper conduct and thank the department for working with us to promptly handle this situation," said Karen Cutler, Aramark's director of corporate communications.

There were 14 Aramark employees working at the Bellamy Creek facility before the four women were terminated. The contractor is now moving employees from the Ionia area to Bellamy Creek to cover the staffing shortage.

According to Marlan, Aramark's staffing level across the state is above 90 percent.