Rod Meloni: Wasted food at Wayne County jails?


DETROIT – Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon went to court this week asking a judge for more money. He says, with some credibility, that the Wayne County Commission underfunds his department by significant amounts every year.

The problem for the sheriff is he has little credibility when it comes to how me manages the money in his department.

We have recounted how the sheriff can't seem to pay the gasoline bills for his vast fleet of vehicles and embarrassingly has the credit cards shut off on a regular basis.

Read: Wayne County admits problem with Sheriff's gas cards

The auditor general last year investigated the multimillion dollar commissary program inside the three Wayne County jails, the program where inmates buy snacks and toiletries, and found serious mismanagement.

Read: County jail commissary money not spent appropriately

Some of the problems include absolutely no inventory controls and the use of cash to buy items when customers are not allowed to use cash. Instead, they use computerized cards.

No one knew how much cash came in or went out nor did they know whether anything had been stolen.

For all intents and purposes, the commissary ran like a country general store, not an inner city jail, with the regulars all but asking clerks to put their purchases on their tab.

Then, tonight, we have the newest audit report on Napoleon-run operations.

Napoleon's jails are running a food service much the way they run their commissaries.

The food service operations serve more meals every day than there are inmates!

We aren't talking about a few meals or a few dozen meals we are talking nearly seven hundred meals a day! Let me repeat that, the jail is paying for seven hundred more meals a day than it has inmates. This amounts to more than a quarter of a million unneeded meals over the last four years and the cost is a staggering $1.5 million dollars.

There is no mistake here!

The sheriff's office agreed with the auditor general's report. Napoleon's staff told Wayne County Commissioners today at its audit committee hearing that the reason this happens is because the jail population is so torrid, so quick to move in and out of the jail that it is difficult to keep track. That didn't fly. But the report is infinitely more damning than that.

The investigation was taken up after one of the county commissioners had heard there were problems and the auditor general started looking at receipts and comparing them to the contract and discovered the vendor Canteen Correctional Services had overcharged the county by more than a quarter of a million dollars because if "forgot" to include a contractual discounting of meal costs by three cents a meal over the life of the contract.

Had this audit not been done this problem would not have been discovered. Furthermore the jail system is in trouble with the state because there is a program where juvenile meals get paid for with state money and the WCSO apparently is messing up that opportunity as part of this deal as well. One of the more interesting corners of the auditor's report shows the jails use inmates to serve meals at other jails.

For some reason, those inmates are allowed to have breakfast at their home jail and then again when they serve food at the other facility. Two breakfasts in one day? Does anyone remember this is taxpayer money they're spending?

The report also says it suspects the WCSO is using all of this excess food as a reward system for inmates. So is there another repayment due the county in the days to come from the sheriff's food vendor? County commissioners are sure wondering that question.

They also want to know how this horse could be allowed to get so far out of the barn without being discovered.

These are all questions for the sheriff to answer in the days to come and rest assured we have asked for a sit-down interview with him to get those answers. And by the way, have I mentioned lately that the Sheriff's office is millions over budget already this year and that the county itself is on the verge of emergency management? Both statements are factually correct.

So, as we tend to say at the end of all of these blogs, stay tuned! 

Read Official Audit Report

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