I-Team: Health violations logged at beach concession stands

The Rhode Island Department of Health found dozens of violations at three state beach food concession stands run by a state lawmaker.

The same stands are at the center of a state police investigation first reported by the NBC 10 I-Team.

There were 25 violations at Scarborough, 16 citations at Roger Wheeler and six citations at Misquamicut. Inspectors logged 26 other violations in early July.

"You've got a new place open. A new manager, new workers -- they make mistakes," said Dr. Ernest Julian who works for the Health Department.

Some of the mistakes were potentially dangerous, others were just gross.

At Misquamicut, there were "cans of clam chowder stored in the restroom", floors covered with "soil residue and food debris," and there was "an accumulation of mold build up in an ice machine."

At Scarborough there were "fly strips in and round both kitchens" and "fish thawing on the counter in a bucket of water."

And at Roger Wheeler there was "a foul/noxious odor coming from the grease trap."

"I know at one of the facilities we had a problem where the refrigerator had broken down. It was running at 50 degrees," Julian said.

Julian said the refrigerator at Misquamicut has since been fixed as have other problems found at all three locations. All three stands are licensed and have a manager who's certified in food safety.

He said inspectors went back to the stands Friday to make sure food preparation procedures were in use.

"The major causes of illness are often people," Julian said. "People preparing food with their bare hands. So we want to make sure they're washing their hands and they're wearing gloves."

The inspections began July 2 after a customer complained about undercooked chicken served at the Misquamicut stand.

The I-Team reported Cranston Rep. Peter Palumbo was managing the stands for friend and owner David Caprio. Caprio was awarded the state contract after Palumbo withdrew his winning bid and then hired Palumbo to work for him.

The I-Team learned Palumbo probably shouldn't have gone after the beach business in the first place.

Ethics rules forbid active state legislators from bidding on state contracts.

Caprio resigned as chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party after NBC 10 reported the story.

A state police investigation into the bid process continues.