Jail superintendent relieved of chef duties

Kirk Boxleitner kboxleitner@ptleader.com
Posted 7/11/17

Nine weeks after he started cooking meals for nearly 40 inmates, with no days off, Jefferson County Jail Superintendent Steve Richmond hung up his chef’s apron.

“In 27 years, we’ve always …

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Jail superintendent relieved of chef duties

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Nine weeks after he started cooking meals for nearly 40 inmates, with no days off, Jefferson County Jail Superintendent Steve Richmond hung up his chef’s apron.

“In 27 years, we’ve always had a full-time cook,” Richmond said. “We didn’t have one over the weekends, but he’d prepare meals like casseroles that could be reheated, or we’d use TV dinners from Airway Heights.”

On May 2, the cook was placed on paid administrative leave, before his position was terminated June 16. Richmond said it was a personnel issue he could not discuss.

“We didn’t have a backup because I’m the backup,” Richmond said. “I’ve been the backup relief cook for years, but as soon as he was first placed in administrative leave, I’ve been the full-time cook. We hadn’t anticipated what to do.”

Richmond and his correction officers soon started contacting other jails in other counties. It was the correction sergeants who were attending a statewide conference of law enforcement agents who made contact with Summit Food Service of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a vendor that serves jails in Kitsap, Mason, Thurston and Island counties.

“It was very short notice, but they agreed to help us out,” Richmond said. “The county granted us an emergency waiver for the bidding process. [County Administrator] Philip Morley and his clerks really pulled it all together and did an outstanding job.”

The upshot is that Summit staff began serving meals at the jail July 7, barely three weeks after they were contacted, and they’ll continue to do so through Dec. 31 of this year.

“In the meantime, we’ll be able to start a more regular bidding process in about another month,” Richmond said.

MEAT LOAF FRIDAY

Richmond was relieved of duty, on his final “Meat Loaf Friday,” by Summit district manager Ted Hanby and Thurston County Jail food services supervisor Everett Gage, who agreed to work on site until more local hires can be made.

“Our correction staff work 12 hours a day,” Richmond said. “They don’t work me as many hours, but I stay until the job gets done. Within two hours, I can prepare lunches and dinners through the next day. It’s not a challenging menu, between 2,200 and 2,600 calories a day, but it’s nutritious and balanced, with Salisbury steak and burritos. Of course, Summit’s menu is a bit more expansive.”

Richmond reported that Sheriff Dave Stanko is currently in the process of appropriating funds to cover the additional cost of retaining Summit’s services for roughly six months.

“In the end, I expect it’ll be a little bit more expensive than we would have paid the old chef for that period, with benefits, but not by much,” Richmond said.

The jail has also armed itself with two weeks’ worth of meals in reserve, ready to go, should anything else go awry.

The estimated cost of the six-month contract is $94,000, which is set to be drawn from the county’s existing food service budget of $160,231 for 2017.

When the Jefferson County commissioners approved the emergency declaration and proposed contract with Summit as part of their consent agenda June 26, the resolution did specify a potential need for supplemental appropriations in the third or fourth quarter of 2017.

Ultimately, though, Richmond doesn’t believe it’s all that remarkable.

“I’d stood in for our cook for a few weeks at a time before, when he went on vacation,” Richmond said. “It wasn’t nine weeks long, but still. The real story is how quickly Summit responded, and how Morley and the sheriff and everyone else in the county pulled off what they did, because without it, none of this would have happened.”

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