Supervisor Hap Hazard became alarmed during Supervisor Byng Hunt’s Board report on Tuesday when Hunt made reference to the Benton Community Garden.
When Hunt mentioned that Mono County’s Behavioral Health Department was involved in the garden, Hazard put on the brakes.
“There has been concern from the public that County money was involved in this garden [which is being built on the church property],” Hazard said. “We reviewed this and were told that the church’s pastor and a community member [who also happens to be a County employee] built the garden on their own time.”
CAO Jim Arkens had looked into the matter, contacting Public Works and Social Services, but had not specifically asked the Behavioral Health Department if it had contributed money to the garden.
“We need to review this,” Hazard said on Tuesday.
Hazard explained the potential issue with the following example:
“If the equipment had been purchased with County money, but then the employee took it home to build his own garden, that’s a misappropriation of County equipment and materials,” Hazard said. The same would be true if the equipment were purchased with County funds to build a garden on County property, but then the materials were used to build a garden elsewhere, like the church property.
“Was the employee active in the community and brought his own equipment, or was he using County equipment?” Hazard queried.
After the meeting, Hazard said Hunt clarified that Behavioral Health dollars had not been used rather the department was just helping promote the garden to seniors.
Arkens told The Sheet on Thursday that he had spoken with the Behavioral Health Department and the County “has not made any contributions to the community garden at this time.”
The department was exploring grants for gardens in Benton and Walker.