CMU redacts all financial information from Chartwells contract

The contract between Central Michigan University and Chartwells included seven pages of redactions.

At its December 2020 Board of Trustees meeting, Central Michigan University announced it signed a 10-year food service contract with Chartwells. 

Chartwells is best known for providing food to K-12 schools. It replaced Aramark, which CMU first contracted with in 1995.

On Sept. 20, Central Michigan Life sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the university's General Counsel Office asking for a copy of CMU's contract with Chartwells. It was delivered on Oct. 1. 

All financial information in the contract was redacted. 

Though other Chartwells customers, such as Eastern Michigan University, sent Central Michigan Life intact contracts, CMU's contract was delivered with seven pages of black boxes covering information needed to understand the business operation and its pricing. 

How much Chartwells is charging students per meal – and charging the university per year – was not released to the public because CMU considers the information "trade secrets" under state law.

"The redacted information is protected under the Michigan FOIA statute, MCL 15.243(1)(d), which exempts from disclosure 'records or information specifically described and exempted from disclosure by statute,'" Assistant General Counsel Anthony Warren said in the email accompanying the contract. "Here, the redacted information contains trade secrets, as defined by the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, and adopted by the state of Michigan. Chartwells’ trade secrets are protected under the UTSA, and thus exempt from disclosure under the state FOIA statute."

When Chartwells took over the food service program this fall, complaints about poor food quality, empty food lines in dining halls and a shortage of employees appeared on social media. Parents and students expressed concern about the change to Chartwells. 

When asked if the transition to Chartwells this fall was an effort to save money, President Bob Davies said "the financial impact of the two proposals (Chartwells and Aramark) was very similar." Other state universities, such as University of Michigan, Michigan State and Ferris State, are struggling with supply chain disruptions and worker shortages.

CM Life is appealing the decision to redact the financial information from the contract. At CMU, that appeal can only be granted by Davies.

Central Michigan Life requested the contract between CMU and Chartwells.