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					Bankrupt Food Vendor Keeps Grinding Out Meatloaf
           (continued from cover)                  Sole-Sourcing Lives at Caltrans                   Mario provides. Unofficially, Caltrans staff
before they started advertising him?” asked             The practice of sole-source contracting      says that Amtrak’s charter lets it keep busi-
a whistleblowing former Chef Mario, Inc.           on state projects has been greatly restricted     ness records confidential, and even Caltrans
employee quoted on condition of confiden-          following the Oracle software debacle. The        has had trouble obtaining information it
tiality. “Mario’s claims of experience are so      public reaction to the scandal is generally       wants. The state has not cited this excuse in
bizarre that they’re kind of entertaining. One     credited with making Governor Gray Davis          correspondence to date, and in fact Amtrak
of his catering websites actually said that he     vulnerable to recall.                             has been compelled in some cases to pro-
has done black tie formal dinners for former                                                         vide financial data. Maintaining the position
                                                        However, inside Caltrans Division of Rail,
Presidents Regan [sic], Carter, Nixon and                                                            that the price of meatloaf is privileged might
                                                   sole sourcing continues unabated. This is
Garfield. That kind of says it all. He doesn’t                                                       seem frivolous.
                                                   because its ties with Amtrak allow its man-
even know when to stop lying.”                     agers to pick vendors yet keep their hands            The fact that Caltrans still has not pro-
     Current advertising flyers created by         nominally clean by avoiding being the con-        duced some records raised eyebrows at
Caltrans contractor Glass-McClure make the         tract managers of record. This swift route        TRAC. “Even the High Speed Rail Authority
claim that for “over 30 years, Chef Mario has      around the State Administrative Manual            complied with the 10 calendar day rule and
been delighting Hollywood's elite with his         allows managers to direct funds to vendors,       provided all correspondence, e-mail, and
culinary creativity and flamboyant style.”         yet feel no compunctions about having Chef        payment records we requested regarding
But Mario's own resume, provided by one            Mario do the honors for personal banquets.        a range of vendors,” said Miller. “We don't
of his vendors, shows Northern California                                                            understand this behavior.”
                                                        Sole-source Caltrans contracts finessed
residency over the entire period. The closest      through Amtrak have reportedly become a               Chef Mario's ex-employees have no such
thing to Hollywood he claims is catering jobs      sore subject with Amtrak President David          trouble interpreting what is going on. They
for film crews two years around 1973.              Gunn, after a string of bus feeder, market-       claim that Amtrak suits repeatedly had free
     Caltrans managers say that the state did      ing, and public relations contracts have been     dinners and entertainment at the now-closed
not sign the Chef Mario contract, Amtrak           handed to vendors on projects designed by         Chef Mario's Island Lighthouse Seafood
did, and therefore there can be no possible        Caltrans staff without competitive bids.          Grotto, which is only about two miles from
conflict of interest or impropriety. However,                                                        the Oakland Amtrak headquarters.
one rail staff member has admitted that he
                                                   Audit-Proof Records at Amtrak                         The former Mario employees say the
was on the selection panel that picked Chef            One month after a public records act          free meals started with a November 2002
Mario.                                             request was filed with the Caltrans Division      negotiation to extend Mario’s contract and
                                                   of Rail, the agency had produced some mar-        continued for at least six months afterwards.
Who’s Being Investigated?                          keting contracts and bills and 4 of 24 months     “Mario may have been able to do that two
     The whistleblower approached Caltrans         of e-mail traffic requested. However, it still    years ago, but things have changed. They
a month ago, but agreed to be interviewed          not provided most requested financial data        need to wake up and see that Mario is no
after Caltrans apparently disclosed her iden-      and contracts regarding Chef Mario.               longer in a position to be such a generous
tity to Chef Mario, Inc. Two days after meet-          For example, Caltrans has not disclosed       guy anymore,” said the whistleblower.
ing with Caltrans and telling rail managers        how much it pays for the meals that Chef
about Mario's rodent problems at his restau-
rant, chronic nonpayment of employees and
vendors, and improper handling of employee                     Texas politicians                        Ignore them!
tax and workmans compensation deduc-                          are saying that we                  Better to just let them see
tions, she received an e-mail threat from PPS
Rail Gourmet Catering carrying the heading                    cost Texas a billion               who's the boss again. Reassign
"Cease and Desist." Ordinarily cease and                     dollars the last time               some more crews over to the
desist orders are issued by a judge.
                                                            we had a freight grid-                     Colorado Division.
     The e-mail begins, “it has come to our
attention that you have contacted several                    lock problem. What
of our contract/business associates.” Says                      should be do?
the whistleblower, “My identity and e-mail
address came to their attention because
the Caltrans Division of Rail and Amtrak
disclosed them to its vendor instead of inves-
tigating Chef Mario's fraudulent experience
claims, nonpayment of vendors and employ-
ees, and workmans comp violations. They
seem to be circling the wagons instead of
getting to the bottom of this.“
     According to Caltrans Rail Chief Warren
Weber, the western food service manager for
Amtrak is not investigating Mario, but the
whistleblower. Weber says the Amtrak food
manager told him that the whistleblower
represented herself as a state employee
when talking to him. The whistleblower
rejects this claim, and says she said nothing
of the sort.



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2                                            California Rail News September-October 2004
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