The Youngstown City District Board of Health is considering disciplinary action against the head of its Environmental Health Division for failing to adequately inspect numerous food- service operations, including those at Youngstown State University, over several years.
The board met in executive session after its regular meeting Monday with city Law Director Anthony Farris on the issue.
It is expected to meet again in the next two weeks to deal with the issue, said Erin Bishop, acting health commissioner.
The board wants to make sure the person responsible for not making the inspections is disciplined, said Bishop, who was not with the health department when inspections were missed in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
During that period, Cicero Davis, who was promoted to director of the environmental division in 2010, was responsible for inspections at YSU and other food-service operations, Bishop said.
Based on a regularly scheduled survey of the health department’s food-service operation in September, the Ohio Department of Health cited the health department for not inspecting some of the city’s 500 to 600 food establishments, including several at YSU, as often as required.
The ODH placed the health department’s food-service operation on provisional status and ordered it to submit a corrective-action program within 45 days. If the deficiencies cited are not corrected by March 1, ODH would initiate a “proposal for disapproval,” said Tessie Pollock, ODH spokeswoman.
The state health department inspects local health food-service programs every three years. The last inspection here before this year’s was in 2009.
Davis said during his 20 years with the health department he has never received a foodborne illness complaint from food-service operations at YSU.
There are multiple layers of oversight, including a National Sanitation Foundation inspector paid by Sodexo, the company that operates the eateries on campus, and an ODH inspector on-site daily at the main kitchen, he explained.
While Davis acknowledged his inspections were not documented, he said YSU always was inspected and that he has “always maintained a presence” at YSU and maintained contact with Sodexo and its staff.
The issue attracted the attention of state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, who asked ODH to inspect the YSU dining facilities while the Youngstown health district takes time to get its affairs in order.
He said the local health department’s “reckless negligence puts the students and educators who work at YSU at risk of contracting serious illness.”
Bishop is preparing a report for Mayor Charles Sammarone, who is head of the health board, about what has happened and what the board plans to do.
She said there never has been a problem with food-service operations at the university and that inspections conducted in mid- October of YSU dining facilities turned up no violations.
Bishop said, however, that doesn’t mean the inspections should not have been done.