(Sept. 5, 2014) The CEO of a national catering company – which happens to hold a contract for food service at the Ocean City convention center – was fired Tuesday after a video surfaced last week of him abusing an animal.
Desmond Hague, head of Centerplate, was seen on video footage from a Vancouver elevator, dated July 27, violently pulling and repeatedly kicking a puppy.
Centerplate holds roughly 300 food vending contracts with major sports and entertainment venues across the country, including the Ocean City convention center.
“As a dog lover myself, this is obviously disturbing,” said city Communications Manager Jessica Waters. “But the people at Centerplate that we work with here are amazing. I don’t know the character of their CEO, but I would hate to think that anything he has done would reflect badly on our crew at the convention center.”
Patrons of Centerplate’s client venues across the country – and particularly west-coast sports venues such as the San Francisco ‘49ers and San Diego Chargers’ stadiums – pledged to boycott the company’s food service.
An online petition to oust Hague had gathered over 180,000 signatures as of Monday evening, the night before Hague’s firing was announced.
“We are under contract with Centerplate through June of 2015,” said Ocean City convention center Director Larry Noccolino. “I still stand behind the folks that work here. One person’s actions – we’re not going to hold that against them.”
Gary Leach, Centerplate’s General Manager for Ocean City, deferred inquiries to the company’s central office.
Unfortunately, many of the top search results for “Centerplate” on Google – which now fall immediately below a multitude of national news headlines about the scandal – are links to the Ocean City convention center and various other resort promotional associations.
“I’m shocked,” said Susan Jones, Executive Director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association. “We would never support violence against animals.”
Prior to his ouster, Hague released a personal statement saying that he was “ashamed and deeply embarrassed a minor frustration with a friend’s pet caused me to lose control of my emotional response.”
Prior to firing him, Centerplate had announced that it was requiring Hague to attend anger management counseling, as well as perform 1,000 hours of community service and make a $100,000 donation to found an animal-abuse prevention foundation.
However, backlash from vendors and customers accusing the company of a whitewashing Hague’s continued to mount.
The chairman of Centerplate’s Board of Directors, Joe O’Donnell, announced Tuesday that Hague would be replaced with former Centerplate COO Chris Verros.
“Following an extended review of the incident involving Mr. Hague, I’d like to apologize for the distress that this situation has caused to so many; but also thank our employees, clients and guests who expressed their feelings about this incident,” O’Donnell said in a statement.
“Their voices helped us to frame our deliberations during this very unusual and unfortunate set of circumstances,” he said.