NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — What are city officials doing about information that those in charge of a cafeteria program tied to bad school lunches have accepted trips paid for by some of the manufacturers providing the food?
It took CBS2’s Marcia Kramer six months to get her hands on records detailing the travel of Department of Education executives, and mere minutes to walk them into the city’s Department of Investigation.
The records show how over the last four years, four executives have taken many trips. They traveled all over the country from Miami and Las Vegas to San Antonio and Los Angeles. The travel was paid for by school lunch manufacturers and other special interest groups.
“It’s an inherent conflict,” Public Advocate Letitia James said.
Also conflicting; the disgusting food some of the manufacturers have been serving to kids including discolored meat, moldy juice, even chicken tainted with choking hazards like metal bits and bones that on at least one occasion required the Heimlich maneuver.
“A million plus children eat in our public schools each and every day, and in some cases it’s their only food, and it’s really outrageous,” James said.
The reason that was often given for travel was a tour of ‘manufacturer facilities’ but sources told CBS2 that it’s just an excuse for wining and dining by companies hungry for a piece of the city’s $750-million school lunch budget.
“The number one rule is you cannot accept gifts from the people you are doing business with,” the public advocate said.
CBS2 obtained a copy of a distributor contract and it’s all there in black and white, “the contractor shall not give any gift or thing of value to any employee whose salary is payable from the city treasury.” Violations terminate the contract.
When confronted last week neither the school’s chancellor or the mayor would stop and talk to CBS2’s Kramer.
Chancellor Carmen Farina later released a statement claiming the department has ‘strict regulations’ pertaining to department of education travel, and that the approved trips did not violate department regulations.
On Thursday, sources told CBS2 that the city’s Department of Investigation is investigating the Department of Education’s policies when it comes to trips.
On the record, all the agency would say was that “DOI is aware of the matter and declines further comment.”
“I’m calling upon the chancellor, overhaul this particular unit to immediately suspend these individuals and to put in place some standards and some oversight,” James added.
The DOI is also calling on any former or current employees with the city’s lunch program to come forward with any information regarding these trips or any other inappropriate gifts.
Viewers can also submit information or tips to CBS2.
The Department of Education refused to comment and referred CBS2’s Kramer to DOI.