AG: Investigate food vendor

State Rep. Brent Yonts wants Attorney General Jack Conway to investigate whether ARAMARK Correctional Services is in breach of its state contract because the company refused to provide records requested by state Auditor Crit Luallen's office during a review of its performance in feeding Kentucky's prison inmates.

Since ARAMARK's $12 million state contract specifically says the auditor's office "shall have access to books, documents, records or other evidence ... for the purpose of financial audit or program review," Yonts' request seems justified.

And the fact that Gov. Steve Beshear's administration seems unwilling to make ARAMARK comply with this contract provision provides even more reason for Conway to look into the matter.

In a December letter to legislators, Corrections Commissioner LaDonna Thompson said prison officials decided ARAMARK didn't violate its contract.

That conclusion prompted Yonts to say, "It could not be clearer that they failed to provide the records they were legally required to provide."

We're as puzzled by the corrections officials' decision as Yonts. But then, we've been puzzled by this administration's seeming indifference to ARAMARK's performance since it started pooh-poohing complaints about food from inmates and prison guards in the wake of the August 2009 riot at Northpointe Training Center.

The audit by Luallen's office clearly validated those complaints — noting delays in service caused by food shortages, leftover food kept in storage for an excessive length of time, menu substitutions without advance approval and indications that approved recipes and proper quantities of ingredients weren't being used.

The audit report also said the state may be overpaying ARAMARK by more than $130,000 a year.

None of this seemed of concern to the Beshear administration, which has proceeded with plans to renew the ARAMARK contract this month. The administration now has reached the seemingly unwarranted conclusion that the company didn't violate its contract by withholding records from the auditor's office despite clear language compelling it to provide the records.

Given that background, Yonts was right to ask Conway's office to examine whether ARAMARK is in breach of its contract.

We urge the attorney general to honor this request. The taxpayers of Kentucky deserve to know the answer.