Health Inspector Responds To Hephzibah Story

Pictured is the Hephzibah House from across the road, at 2277 E. Pierceton Road. The 51-acre property is also the site of their ministry, Believers Baptist Church. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.

A phone call from the county health inspector regarding Tuesday’s Hephzibah House article has resulted in new information about inspections there.

Nathan Burton, with the Kosciusko County Health Department, read Tuesday’s article and took issue with this quote from Hephzibah Assistant Director Dave Halyaman: “We just had the health department there on Monday. They routinely inspect us like every two to three months, and they’re always happy with us.”

“He said I was in there on Monday,” Burton said, “and that’s true. But this wasn’t a routine inspection, this was a complaint-based inspection where there was actually five violations, three of which were critical.”

A written request for a copy of the report shows the complaint alleged: “there are ants under the sink; test strips are cut into tiny pieces; was served something resembling dog food; food was used as a punishment (intentionally served frozen or too hot to consume); when open containers of yogurt or cottage cheese grew mold, the mold was scraped off the top and the rest was served; spoiled milk was served; became ill multiple times from food and was then shamed for being ill; slimy sprouts/greens were served; leftovers were reheated to luke-warm temperature.”

The report lists Sandy Halyaman as the person who received and signed a copy of the report, and the person who is listed as the certified food handler.

Burton’s three critical violations – which were ordered to be corrected immediately – were “1. Olives were marked for disposition by 1/8; 2. A gallon of milk was marked 1/3 in the walk-in cooler; 3. A container of cleaner/soap was not labeled.”

The non-critical violations were: “1. Procedures were not in place for testing the concentration of sanitizer in sanitizer buckets; 2. Canned goods in the back building included cans that were rusty, dented (on seal) or dusty.”

That back building, Burton said, is something he discovered after he began inspecting at Hephzibah.

“When I started doing inspections there, I was told where the food storage area is, but they’re storing food back in a different building that’s not under inspection and not disclosed. When I would ask them is this where all the food is stored, they’d say yes. And then I went to the building and I found a whole back building full of food. They haven’t always been forthright with me is what I’m saying,” Burton said.

His report from the Jan. 20 complaint inspection also listed that he discussed heating, thawing and re-heating procedures with Dave Halyaman.

When contacted by the Times-Union for a comment on this new information, Halyaman said first he wanted to correct information he said about when the pelvic exams stopped.

“A former student actually contacted us (after the article) and said she got it in 2007 but somebody who came the next year did not get one and would have needed one, so the pelvic exams stopped in the mid-2000s, 2008. I told you wrong, because we just thought in the ’90s, but it was mid-2000s,” Halyaman said.

When presented with the information brought to light about the latest health inspection, Halyaman said about the past expiration dates: “This is an honest mistake on the staff’s part. Sometimes they mark, we should, you should be marking it when it expires, where/when if you open a can of food I think somebody was marking it when they opened it, but you know, he (Burton) doesn’t know that, and we didn’t know it until we asked the staff and they said they were marking that when they were opening it.”

When asked about the spoiled milk being served complaint, Halyaman said, “Yeah, no it’s absolutely not the case, that’s not the case. He didn’t find any of that.”

When told that indeed there was expired milk dated Jan. 3 found in the walk-in cooler Jan. 20 and that it was listed as a critical violation, Halyaman said, “Well, sometimes they buy milk eight or nine gallons at a time, they freeze it and then you thaw it out, stir up and you serve it. I don’t know if that’s considered out of date or not. But nobody eats worms or dog food. The staff eats what they eat. If there’s leftovers, I might take it. I’m not gonna eat dog food. No students are forced to eat that, I mean, goodnight, I wouldn’t want to eat it, I wouldn’t want my own children to it, I don’t have children. If something’s spoiled, it’s spoiled and we pitch it. We don’t scrape mold off.”

He also said when it came to the dented sealed cans being a non-critical violation, Halyaman said, “If you get 30 cases of food, you don’t open every case. If the can is dented up at the top where the rim is, then nobody knew that but now we know it. You could go into any restaurant in this town. There’s a learning curve.”

When asked if that learning curve is over since Hephzibah House has been serving food as certified food handlers since the ’70s, Halyaman said, “Well, yeah, but staff changes. Look, I wouldn’t feed wilted lettuce to my dog, much less these girls. I’m not disputing that they call them critical, but are kids getting sick? No. Are they yelled at, beat up or shamed if they don’t eat? If they don’t eat, if they refuse to eat then they go to bed for 24 hours. Every violation they ever say is fixed, without fail.”

Halyaman also added that they’ve been storing food in other buildings, so if Burton wasn’t aware of the back building with food before, he doesn’t know what to say to that, but that Burton has since been up there.