On Monday morning, Lubbock County Commissioners voted to terminate the contract with Mid-America Services, the company that feeds Lubbock County inmates. This contract termination is a direct link to several criminal investigations out of Potter County. Just last month, the food provider pleaded guilty to bribery.
"We exercise our option under the contract and notify Mid-America with our intent to terminate the contract and re-bid the service," Lubbock County Director of Purchasing Stephen Chandler said.
That recommendation comes from Chandler and Criminal District Attorney John Grace during Monday morning's county commissioners meeting. Soon after, the court voted unanimously to terminate Mid-America Services contract. "The most recent legal issue with its company and its president that was something that we could at this point make a definite decision that we do need to re-bid this contract," Commissioner Bill McCay said.
NewsChannel 11 first broke news of the scandal with former Potter County Sheriff Mike Shumate last December. Then in June, a jury found Shumate guilty of accepting bribes from Mid-America.
In a related case, Mid-America's president Robert Austin Jr. pleaded guilty to one charge of giving a gift to a public servant in early September. One day later, the Dallas company pleaded guilty to bribery. At the same time, Lubbock County Commissioners launched an investigation into the company. "There's no allegation of any wrong doing between Mid-America and Lubbock County, there are no service issues with the company," Grace said.
NewsChannel 11 asked Lubbock County Sheriff David Gutierrez if he had ever received anything from the company. "I have not received one penny or one service from this contractor or any other contractors," Gutierrez replied.
"After what happened in the most recent court we can now go with confidence and say we need to re-bid this contract," McCay added.
At the end of July, commissioners voted four to one to approve a contract renewal with Mid-America Services. Commissioner Ysidro Gutierrez was the only one vote against it. "My concerns were at the time, we should do the right thing, but I believe today (Monday) we're doing the right thing," Gutierrez said.
A selection committee, including one member from the Lubbock County Sheriff's Office now begins to search for a new vendor. However, until one is found, Commissioner McCay says Mid-America will continue to dish up meals at the Lubbock County Jail. "We'll work this process as quick as we can but not compromise the quality just for the speed," McCay added.
We're told Mid-America Services is under new leadership and may actually re-bid for the contract. Commissioner McCay says a new contract will hopefully be in place within 90 days.
Contractor With Lubbock Ties Pleads Guilty
Robert Austin Jr. pleaded guilty to one charge of giving a gift to a public servant.
Potter County Decision Does Not Change Lubbock County Jail Food Service
Prosecutors say Mike Shumate accepted bribes from the Potter County Jail's food vendor, Mid America Services Inc.