Potter County Decision Does Not Change Lubbock County Jail Food Service - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

6/18/08

Potter County Decision Does Not Change Lubbock County Jail Food Service

The former Potter County Sheriff is spending his first full day behind bars. Mike Shumate is serving 180 days in the Armstrong County Jail as part of a sentencing agreement with the Office of the Texas Attorney General. He will also serve eight years probation.

As part of the sentencing agreement, Shumate agreed to testify against his co-defendant Robert Austin and the company Mid-America Services. Austin is president of that company. The judge also imposed a $5,000 fine. Last week, a Potter County Jury convicted Mike Shumate of engaging in organized criminal activity involving bribery. After the verdict, he was immediately removed from office.

Jeanne McCuban, jury spokesperson, said, "The charges against Mr. Shumate were not taken lightly. This jury deliberated long and hard on each charge measuring the evidence provided against each charge to reach a decision."

Prosecutors say Shumate accepted bribes from the Potter County Jail's food vendor, Mid America Services Inc. The same company provides the food for Lubbock County inmates. So now, many are asking, with this verdict will Lubbock County continue to do business with Mid-America Services?

Lubbock County Commissioner Patti Jones said, "Something happens somewhere else, everybody wants to make it associated to you and making the same bad things happen where you are and that's not true."

Despite the Potter County verdict, Commissioner Jones says at this point Lubbock County's contract with Mid-America Services is not under re-examination. "There is no information or any reason that has been brought to us to even think there's any reason for us to do an investigating on our side," Jones said.

"There has been no conversation with me and the commissioners on any of the contract services we utilize at this point in time. I will tell ya, my chief deputy and administration, top administration monitor all contract services that occur within the sheriff's department or the county jail," Lubbock County Sheriff David Gutierrez said.

Lubbock County started doing business with Mid America Services in October of 2007. Three companies submitted proposals to provide three meals a day to inmates. Out of those companies, a county committee chose Mid-America Services to do the job. Sheriff Gutierrez says he was not personally involved in awarding the contract to Mid-America Services.

"A county commissioner, a member of the sheriff's office, the purchasing agent, and legal representation from the district attorney's office are members of the committee and make their recommendations to the commissioner's court."

It is a decision, which Commissioner Jones says so far has been met with satisfactory service. "We have no intentions to be looking at trying to get out of that contract. They have given us no reason too. It is unfortunate what happened in another county with another sheriff but that is there and this is here. This is in Lubbock," Jones said.

Lubbock County's contract with Mid-America Services runs through September 30 2008. It is a one-year contract that can be renewed yearly for the next four years.

The company's president and Mid-America Services are also charged with the first-degree felony of organized criminal activity involving bribery. That trial is expected to begin September 5 in McKinney.

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