Breaking News: An iTeam investigation into Marshall-Stewart’s-Sodexo dealings

7 Oct

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By Kenny Bass  WCHS

October 7, 2019

 

Huntington, WV — Sodexo, the company with Marshall’s concessions contract, announced it would no longer be working with Stewart’s Original Hot Dogs. In a statement, the company said, ” We have enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Stewart’s, and we are looking forward to serving students and the greater Marshall community this fall.”

According to Stewart’s owner John Mandt, Sodexo wanted to change the terms of their deal and lower his portion of game-day hot dog sales. Mandt said he would lose money if that happened.

“Stewart’s “Thunder Dogs” have been sold at Joan Edwards stadium since its inception in 1991,” Mandt said.

We asked Marshall about its involvement. The University maintains it had no contractual agreement with Mandt and that the decision was Sodexo’s alone.

We wanted to take a deeper look at the chain of events in this story, so we filed a Freedom Of Information Act request with Marshall University for emails connected to the contract decision.

While Marshall denied any involvement with the situation, emails sent by Marshall President Jerome Gilbert indicate otherwise. While Gilbert doesn’t directly order the move, it’s clear he wants Marshall to cut ties with Mandt.

On March 25th of this year, Gilbert sent a message to his chief of staff saying, “I know you have already looked into this to some extent but could you give me an official report on the hot dog contract and when a request for proposals may come up again. Would there by other hot dog vendors who could supply a proposal, eg FrostTop, Sam’s, Midway, etc?”

Gilbert’s message was prompted by a Facebook post Mandt had made in reference to a Huntington mosque vigil for victims of a mass shooting in New Zealand. Mandt, a republican delegate, said “Anything Muslim is going to be associated with Democrats.”

That followed an earlier controversy during the legislative session in which Mandt voted against discharging a bill from committee that would have added sexual orientation to West Virginia’s Human Rights Act.

The bill died, with some activists blaming Mandt for its demise.

Gilbert authored another email on April 5th, to Sodexo’s Marshall rep Cheryl King. In it, Gilbert referenced a petition with more than 700 signatures demanding the Stewart’s contract be canceled.

In his message, Gilbert said, “I will leave it up to you to determine if Delegate Mandt’s social media comments rise to the level of contemplating his contract. Certainly, my view is reflected in the Marshall Creed, and I will leave it at that.”

In addition to the petition, Gilbert also attached the Marshall Creed to his message. It reads in part that Marshall is “A Judicious Community remaining alert to the threats posed by hatred, intolerance and other injustices and ever-prepared to correct them.”

We asked several times to talk with President Gilbert about his emails, which appear to contradict the university’s official claim of not influencing the termination of the Stewart’s deal.

Citing the president’s busy travel schedule our requests were denied… adding, “We don’t have anything further to say on the matter.”

Following Gilbert’s messages, Sodexo reviewed its deal with Stewart’s. In a May 31st letter to Mandt, Sodexo presented its contractual details, alleging that the latest invoice from his company exceeded their agreed-to terms. Sodexo wanted compensation for what it called “inaccurate billing rates.” Mandt has denied the claim and has even discussed the possibility of perhaps selling his product at future Marshall games.

“You take a setback and make it a comeback,” Mandt said. “That’s the way I look at it. I’m not easily defeated.”

Mandt is still selling his merchandise when the Herd takes the field. Except now he’s on the sidewalk outside of the stadium, where fans can buy his “Thunder Dogs.”

A Sodexo spokesperson supplied this statement about the contract negotiations with Stewart’s Original Hot Dogs to Eyewitness News.

“Our contract with Stewart’s Hot Dogs was 30 years old, and no longer offered terms that benefitted (sic) either party. After attempting to negotiate a new agreement that benefitted (sic) both parties, it became clear that this would not be possible, when Mr. Mandt abandoned the terms of the existing agreement, exiting the stadium with all equipment and supplies. As such, we were forced to cease our agreement. We wish Mr. Mandt well in his next endeavors.” – Sodexo

 

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