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DC Councilmember Vincent Orange Intervened During Health Department Efforts To Close Rodent Infested Warehouse That Contributed To His Campaign

11:24 PM, Jan 14, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) - District Councilmember Vincent Orange intervened on behalf of a campaign contributing produce warehouse that was ultimately closed for a rat infestation.

Follow Investigative Reporter Russ Ptacek, (@russptacek) on Twitter or Facebook for updates on this and other WUSA9 investigations.

The incident occurred December 21st at Sam Wang Produce, 300 Morse St. NE, which is the same warehouse where rats ran out towards WUSA9 cameras this month documenting a health department closure.

See rat video by pushing play on most recent story above or click here to see our original report where we documented citations for rodent feces on the floor, in cartons, and in crates, reporting rodents had even chewed into egg shell cartons.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For platforms that cannot click through, there is a link at the bottom of this story.

A spokesman for Councilmember Orange said the intervention was limited to assisting a "constituent" in getting the warehouse re-inspected.

Campaign finance records indicate this constituent was a donor to Orange's political campaigns.

"On December 21st Sam Wang Produce sought assistance in getting a re-inspection of their operations from the DC Department of Health," Orange Spokesman James Brown said in a statement. "A proposed December 26th re-inspection would have caused 40 employees to be off work without pay during the Christmas holiday, loss of business income, loss of DC tax revenue and effect consumers who purchase wholesale produce for their business operations."

The health department document tells a different story.

According to health department records, a city councilmember got involved when inspectors told workers at Sam Wang Produce, they were "required to close immediately" due to a rodent infestation.

"A District of Columbia City councilmember appeared in the establishment's office within twenty-two minutes and began speaking with the area supervisor without having identified himself," the health department report states. "The City Councilmember asked for the Area Supervisor's boss' name, she provided it then informed him that he has already been contacted."

The program director for the District's Department of Health Food Inspection program then responded to the warehouse which had been cited for 18 violations.

"The Program Manager arrived within thirteen minutes and discussed the situation with the City Councilmember who then asked for the Program Manager's boss' name," the report says. "The program manager was unable to contact the deputy director and informed the city councilmember that he was leaving and the final decision was up to the Deputy Director"

District of Columbia campaign finance records indicate Sam Wang Produce and people listing that address with the same last name as the owner have contributed thousands of dollars to Vincent Orange campaigns.

In 2006 alone, there were four $2000 donations to Orange's unsuccessful mayoral campaign.

Despite reporting an imminent health hazard, the inspectors left the warehouse open, according to the report, while waiting for the deputy director to respond.

Ultimately, the deputy director ordered the inspectors back to the warehouse and "informed them that they must close immediately."

Neither Orange nor owners or Sam Wang Produce have responded to requests for an interview.

The warehouse passed a re-inspection and has reopened.

Link to original report on Sam Wang Produce: 

http://www.wusa9.com/news/article/237551/373/Health-Violations-Close-McDonalds-Dunkin-Donuts-Others

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