FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (May 27, 2010) — Post officials have publicly retracted an e-mail claiming that eight Pulaski County restaurants had failed their food inspections and were therefore no longer eligible to be used by people spending military unit funds.
“Recently an erroneous email message about Fort Leonard Wood Unit Funds being used at off-post dining establishments was forwarded to unit fund managers, which was then forwarded throughout the installation,” said Fort Leonard Wood spokesman Jeff Maddy in a prepared statement.
“This message is being retracted due to those errors. There are currently no dining establishments prohibited from receiving unit funds for the purchase of goods and services because of failed health inspections.”
The email by Pala Johnson of DFMWR Unit Funds on Fort Leonard Wood said that a “new listing for approved vendors is out” and named eight restaurants that, according to the e-mail “have been DISAPPROVED because they failed their health inspection.”
The named restaurants are Domino’s Pizza, El Jimador’s Mexican Restaurant, China Buffet and Papa John’s Pizza in St. Robert, Subway on VFW Drive in St. Robert, Crazy Jack’s in Waynesville, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Laquey and Crocker.
However, none of the restaurants have “failed their health inspection,” according to the director of the Pulaski County Health Department.
Publicly available food inspection reports posted online dating back to September 2009 confirm that none of the eight restaurants have had serious problems warranting a closure recommendation; in most cases, relatively minor issues were corrected on site at the time of a food inspection with no further attention required by county health inspectors.
While the Fort Leonard Wood e-mail said the list will be updated “as the restaurants receive approval,” the widely circulated e-mail caused serious damage. One restaurant manager described the loss of business as “horrible” and others have complained as well in less-public venues.
The two named VFW posts haven’t been inspected since reports began being posted last fall, but the health department confirmed that those two locations haven’t had serious problems warranting closure.
Copies of the food inspection reports can be found here:
Maddy’s email indicates that the erroneous email was forwarded to unit fund managers, but it then received much wider distribution.
Initial distribution went through e-mail messages shared within family readiness groups — groups of military spouses who work to support troops, especially those deployed in combat situations. A FRG member from Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 5th Engineer Battalion then posted the email to Leonard Wood Underground, a community message board where it received numerous comments from people requesting more information and making statements such as “I like knowing where not to eat.”
That same email message was then posted by another soldier’s wife on the Pulaski County Web, a local community discussion site which hosts article comments for the Pulaski County Daily News but is under separate ownership and editorial control.
While the comment on Leonard Wood Underground went without rebuttal for nearly 11 days, one of the restaurant managers, Justin Polson of Domino’s Pizza in St. Robert, learned about the email from the comment on the Pulaski County Web and contacted Rick Lepard, owner of the Pulaski County Web. Lepard rapidly posted replies from the restaurant manager denying that he had failed any health inspections.
In a follow-up interview, Polson said he first tried to solve the problem with Pala Johnson of DFMWR Unit Funds and other Fort Leonard Wood officials, and went public only when he couldn’t get post officials to retract their e-mail.
“I called her office, she was out of the office, and they gave me the person who does say ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ and after speaking to that gentleman, he said they had a meeting on Fort Leonard Wood about the email and they are planning to respond,” Polson said. “They didn’t know why that email was sent out. I pretty much tried to tell them what we need is to get the word out into all the community that this is not true; we did not fail our health inspections.”
When Fort Leonard Wood didn’t issue a statement explaining or retracting the e-mail, Polson contacted area media.
Fort Leonard Wood officials issued the retraction less than one day after media inquiries began.