Wayne County could save $2.5 million by fixing problems with jail food contract

DETROIT - The 7 Action News Investigators were the first to tell you about allegations of millions of dollars in overcharges for the food inside the Wayne County jail.

Now we know exactly how much money the cash-strapped county could have been saving:  $2.5 million. 

The 7 Action News Investigators first told you about the potential overcharges back in June.

The Wayne County Auditor General spent more than six months comparing the number of meals served by Canteen Correctional Services to the number of inmates in the four jails and detention facilities.

Back in 2010, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Sheriff's Department Director Sue Hall recommended that Canteen Correctional Services be chosen to provide meals to inmates and some jail staff members.

Canteen Correctional Services is a division of Continental Distributors. 

The Wayne County Commission approved their 5 year contract – which totals $26,143,976.  Since they landed the deal, Continental's top executives have donated generously to the campaigns of both Sheriff Benny Napoleon ($13,075) and Ficano ($5,000).

As part of the audit, first exposed by 7 Action News, the county discovered that an average of 530 extra meals each day was being delivered to the jails.

"Each day there is a significant number of meals over the population," said Mike Sosnowski, supervisory auditor.

In all, auditors found that Wayne County could have saved $2.5 million because of those excess meals,   and because the county missed out on a million dollar grant from the state to pay for some of the food in the Juvenile Detention Facility.

Auditors found 13 areas of concern, including not following county rules for modifying the contract.

Sue Hall told Wayne County Commissioners Wednesday that matching meals to inmates in the busiest jail in the state (also the busiest in the nation) is extremely difficult.

"The population report is one method the auditors used to determine how many meals should be produced, but it's so fluid – we don't know who's in and out from court, we don't know who's coming in to be booked, we don't know who's being released on bond," said Hall.  "Who's in the facility at 11:30 in the morning, will look different than who's in the facility at 2:30pm."

"I don't feel good about them not knowing exactly how many meals they have to have a day.  I know it's a revolving door, but there should be more credibility as to the number of meals that they're ordering," said Wayne County Commissioner Ilona Varga (D-Lincoln Park).

A spokeswoman for Sheriff Benny Napoleon released this written statement:

"We appreciate the Auditor General's final draft report as it points out over $11 million in various cost savings over the course of the contract and also highlights additional ways to save. Jail personnel make every attempt to accurately gauge meal counts for the day; however, the fluctuating nature of inmate populations (particularly those not yet processed but in transit) along with inmates released before eating a scheduled meal can impact counts significantly.  We will continue our practice of rechecking daily counts to reduce overages wherever possible and also continue working with the Commission to save citizen tax dollars."

--Paula Bridges, WCSO Press Director

The review of this jail food contract and the excess meals isn't over yet.  Sheriff's officials will be back in front of the Auditors and the Commission in January.


If you have a story for Heather Catallo please email: hcatallo@wxyz.com or call 248-827-4473.

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