An audit of Richie Farmer's two terms as Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner has revealed a toxic culture of entitlement and an extravagant misuse of taxpayer dollars, state employees and time.
Current Agriculture Commissioner James Comer requested the audit earlier this year. State Auditor Adam Edelen released his final report today, showing more than a dozen infractions by Farmer and a consistent abuse of state law.
Auditors found that Farmer “called a merit employee who was attending a training course at a local university and directed him to drive him to an outdoor sportsman's store in Indiana. In another, he reportedly directed an employee to drive him to hunt. The former commissioner reportedly shot a deer from his state-issued vehicle and directed the employee to bag it for him.”
“The law makes no distinction between icons and the rest of us, and neither do I,” Edelen says in the statement. “The report paints a clear picture of an administration that had no qualms about treating taxpayer resources as its own. The former commissioner had state employees on state time take him hunting and shopping, mow his yard, build a basketball court in his backyard, and even chauffer his dog. He showered himself with gifts and office equipment and rewarded friends with jobs. These are just some of the documented abuses that should outrage every Kentuckian.”
Some of the abuses include:
- Using more than $4,000 in state funds to book hotel rooms for members of Farmer's family during the State Fair, despite those family members not staying the night
- Twice using state resources to make Christmas gift baskets to give to his family
- Using laptops designed for state use for his own personal use, then “aggressively wiping” them clean
- No report of gifts, despite receiving them, including more than $900 in concrete that Farmer used when state employees built a basketball court in his backyard.
- Illegal use of U.S. Fish and Wildlife and tobacco settlement funds
- Allowing an employee to be reimbursed for more than $70,000 for mileage when no work was apparently done
- Illegal state hiring and use of state vehicles as take home cars
Many of the former University of Kentucky basketball star's abuses have been documented by multiple media sources before the audit. But the audit does reveal new problems with Farmer's administration.
The audit's findings will be forwarded to the Kentucky Attorney General, IRS, and other state and federal agencies where given funds were misused or laws might have been broken.
In the release, Comer says the audit was necessary for the department to keep the public's trust.
“This audit was a serious and necessary step toward cleaning the slate and restoring the taxpayers’ confidence in this department,” Comer says. “I appreciate the auditor’s commitment to this cause, and I hope we’ve set the standard for bipartisan cooperation in the interest of better government for all Kentuckians.”