An audit of former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ritchie Farmer shows a systematic abuse of power and misuse of public funds, even in the worst economic situation Kentucky has faced in years.
The investigation was prompted by reports of Farmer’s high expenditures at a conference of Southern agricultural leaders held at the end of Farmer’s second term in office. The conference, which was held at an expensive spa, lasted for over a week, yet involved only six hours of meetings and official business. In addition, Farmer purchased lavish gifts for conference attendees, who included state agricultural leaders and their families, and spent significant amounts of money on food and alcohol.
The audit of Farmer’s tenure in office was initiated by current Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a fellow Republican who was elected to replace Farmer in 2010, and conducted by the current State Auditor.
The audit’s findings portray Farmer as a lavish spender who had no problem misusing taxpayer money. According to the audit, Farmer had state workers build a basketball court on his property (while on state time) with $900 in donated concrete that was never reported as a gift. He signed the time sheets for his girlfriend, an employee at the KDA, despite state officials reporting that she was never at the Department of Agriculture offices. He had staff reserve rooms at Kentucky hotels under false names so he could house friends and relatives on the state’s dime. There are also reports of missing KDA property, including two laptops and several rifles intended as gifts.
Farmer’s lawyer dismissed the audit as political in nature and self-serving. State Auditor Adam Edelen has turned the matter over to the attorney general’s office.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer