Buster Johnson questions employees benefiting from vending machines

Mohave County government employees use proceeds from the sales of snacks and soft drinks in break rooms in county buildings to pay for Christmas parties, picnics and other purposes.

However, county officials contacted by the Miner indicated that they do not know what kind of profit-sharing arrangements various departments made with vendors and how much money is being raised.

But District 1 Supervisor Buster Johnson wants to know.

County procurement officer Dave Seward said the issue of proceeds from vending machines came up about a year and a half ago during a meeting of the county supervisors.

He added that he told Johnson that the only way he could get a handle of it was to do an inventory.

"It is my understanding that these deals were all in place when I got here" four years ago, Seward said.

"The individual departments went out on their own" to obtain vending machines.

Johnson placed the item on the agenda at Monday's meeting, and the three-member board referred the matter to staff.

"These are county funds," Johnson said.

"There just needs to be accountability to the public.

Right now, if you ask me today, 'Where is the money for any of this?' I could not tell you."

Johnson suggested signing contracts with the vendors with the proceeds from profit-sharing going into the general fund, not to the employees.

However, Supervisor Pete Byers thinks Johnson's suggestion is an insult to the employees.

He thinks they should be able to keep the proceeds from profit-sharing because the employees purchase most of the goods from the machines.

"It is just a slap on the employees' faces by one of the supervisors to pick on the employees, just to aggravate them," Byers said.

Byers said he thinks Johnson asked the supervisors to revisit the vending issue because he lost on the Food for Fines and Pet Food for Fines programs operated by the county library system.

Under both programs, library patrons who are overdue on books or other materials may donate food to food banks or pet food to the animal shelter instead of paying fines.

Johnson disagreed, saying he is trying to protect the employees and indicated that the support of the fine programs by the other supervisors did not motivate him.

He has contended that the fine programs may be illegal because they are diverting taxpayer funds for charitable purposes.

"This has nothing to do with employees," Johnson said.

"This has to do with legalities."

Chief Deputy Civil Attorney Deborah Herbert could not be reached for comment.

The issue of percentage from the sale of goods in vending machines has not been defined, board clerk Barbara Bracken said.

"Different facilities are receiving the proceeds from the vending machines and using them with their departments," Bracken said.

She said an employee committee used to determine how the proceeds were to be spent, but that committee no longer exists.

The committee did not get proceeds from the entire county.

Efforts to reach at least two vendors – Coca-Cola in Kingman and River Tom's Sales in Lake Havasu City – were unsuccessful.

They maintain machines on the second floor of the Johnson building.

Proceeds from sales should stay with the employees, District 2 Supervisor Tom Sockwell said.

"It is a good morale booster and it is also a good way for them to pay for things that they would have to pay for out-of-pocket (otherwise)," Sockwell said.

"I do not know what Supervisor Johnson's problem is with the vending machines."

However, Sockwell said vendors should reimburse the county for at least a portion of the electricity costs for operating the machines.