Saturday, September 26, 2015

The vindication of Kenneth Kendrick

I join with Ted in commending the man who blew the whistle on Stewart Parnell and Peanut Corporation of America.

Kenneth Kendrick, missing Monday from the federal courthouse in Albany, GA, did not hear the praise that came from a witness during a pivotal day in the world of food safety.

Kendrick is a former assistant plant manager of the Plainview, Texas, peanut processing facility once owned by the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). On Sept. 21, 2015, his past bosses and supervisors — Stewart Parnell, former owner of PCA, Michael Parnell, former peanut broker, and Mary Wilkerson, former quality assurance manager — sat for sentencing in the same courthouse in which their federal trial was conducted a year earlier.

At the heart of this trial and sentencing sits the 2008-09 Salmonella outbreak, considered one of the most significant in U.S. history. The CDC report on this multistate outbreak identifies 714 clinically confirmed illnesses across 46 states and nine deaths. Later estimates from the CDC place the number of potential victims not reporting an illness at more than 22,000.

Their attempts to hide evidence and obstruct justice delayed investigators from finding the true source of the contamination and bringing an end to the outbreak sooner.

Kendrick, you may remember, ran for state agriculture commissioner in 2014 on the Green Party line.  Texas voters ultimately chose Sid Miller, known for cupcakes and sonograms, over his DINO challenger, Junior Samples.  There's a great deal more to Kendrick's story that most people wouldn't know from reading the article -- he's found steady employment difficult, his wife left him, he has suffered transportation problems and health consequences -- but throughout his ordeal he's been stoic, determined that his actions were the right thing in the face of unrelenting personal hardships.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Parnell, his brother, and three other executives involved in the attempts to conceal problems at PCA on charges of fraud, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, and more than 70 other charges.

At the end of their 2014 trial, a 12-member jury found Stewart Parnell guilty on 67 federal felony counts, Michael Parnell guilty on 30 counts, and Wilkerson guilty on one of two counts of obstruction of justice.

The 2015 sentencing of the five convicted food industry executives included the testimonies of victims and families affected by PCA and the outbreak of Salmonella tied to the company. Jeff Almer, who lost his mother during the outbreak, named each guilty executive and had a word or two for them. He asked Wilkerson about her definition of quality assurance. He even stared at Stewart Parnell and said, “You killed my mom.”

Before ending his testimony, Almer stated before the court his appreciation for the efforts of Kenneth Kendrick in helping to make sure that the investigation, as well as the subsequent trial and sentencing, became possible.

On Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, the judge handed Stewart Parnell a sentence of 28 years in prison, Michael Parnell 20 years, and Mary Wilkerson 5 years. Former PCA managers Daniel Kilgore and Samuel Lightsey, who pleaded guilty under agreements with federal prosecutors, are scheduled to receive their sentences on Oct. 1, 2015.

Compared to the morals and ethics of Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton, Jethro Bodine, and George Pee Bush, try to imagine how much better our state government, in one small department like the agriculture commission, might be with a man of Kendrick's integrity at the helm.

The next time you get a choice between a conservative embarrassment like Sid Miller or a progressive role model like Kenneth Kendrick, choose wisely.


Kenneth K said...

Oh wow thank you for the kind words you give me me far to much credit.I would like to think anyone with a conscious would do the same. Sadly emails from Mr. Parnell about the Texas plant included "we have a girl in Texas who is good with the white out." I want to thank Jeff Almer, he lost his mom to Peanut Butter on toast after beating brain cancer. Hundreds of sad stories, some people in Texas should have been charged, and things should have changed. But just like Blue Bell Ice cream knew for years, as well as the Texas Dept of Health, that they had a Listeria problem (which also can cause premature births) our Governor posed for a picture surrounded with Blue Bell cartons.

Gadfly said...

I too commend Ken, from the road.

Parnell? Should have to eat old listeria tainted Blue Bell.