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I-Team investigates after food supervisor forced to resign

A food inspection document obtained by the I-Team claims that 40 restaurants may not have been inspected since 2015, prompting safety worries from board of health members.

(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A former employee of a West Michigan county health department once in charge of overseeing restaurant inspections is now coming under criticism after the I-Team learned the employee was forced to resign.

This comes as the Newschannel 3 I-Team uncovers how some say the restaurant inspector neglected to keep up with inspections, potentially putting the safety of many in and around West Michigan at risk.

The I-Team started asking questions about the health inspections after portions of a Van Buren/Cass District Health Department document were anonymously sent to Newschannel 3.

"Inspect the 40 restaurants which have not been inspected since 2015," reads the document.

That rate of inspections falls far below state regulations, according to staffers at several West Michigan county health departments.

The I-Team then pored over Van Buren/Cass Health Department meeting minutes, and found a brief mention during a meetin in March of a resignation from a worker named Cary Hindley, now the former food service supervisor.

Over at the Van Buren/Cass Health Department, we asked Director Jeff Elliott about the inspections or lack thereof, and Elliott explained Hindley's departure.

"He said, you know what Jeff, all the regulations we have to follow and everything, he said, I'm kind of tired after 28 years, here's my resignation," Elliott said.

But Elliott disagreed with the internal document saying 40 restaurants were last inspected in 2015.

"I don't think that's gospel," he said.

Elliott says the files may need to be located.

Other staffers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say finding the documents, if they exist, may prove impossible.

At Wednesday's Board of Health meeting, more concerns about the restaurant inspection discrepancies were voiced from board members, as well as other county health officials.

"I got a call from contract compliance, they stated yesterday that we're still under investigation," said Chantal Wojcik, Finance Administrator and Deputy Health Officer. "Now that it's been brought to our attention that the inspections are not done, we might not have enough inspections to be compliant with our contract."

According to a report from the Michigan Department of Agriculture, food inspections in Van Buren and Cass Counties fell short of state standards, although accreditation for the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department overall remained in tact.

Either way, Van Buren/Cass Health District's Health Director says the county has implemented a correction plan, and is training more inspectors as part of an overhaul.

"I will ensure this community that we are doing restaurant inspections and that we have not had any food-borne illnesses," Elliott said.

However the fallout from the former food supervisor--who has since resigned—continues, as the board continues to worry about inspections and the safety of restaurants.

"If he got a paycheck for a year and didn't do inspections for a year, he stole," board member Dwight Dyes said.

"We're not saying that. He did some, he didn't do all of them," said Elliott.

As part of the health department's corrective plan, two additional Environmental Sanitarians were hired to ensure the inspections are done at a rate that's copacetic with state standards.

Have a tip or story you want the I-Team to investigate? Send Investigative Reporter Cody Combs an email, cscombs@WWMT.com

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