Board Opens Investigation of Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner

Earlier this week, the Kentucky Personnel Board voted unanimously to open an official investigation into potential improprieties at the state’s Department of Agriculture under the tenure of former Ag Commissioner Ritchie Farmer.

The investigation is the latest in a series of scandals that have rocked the KDA. Farmer, who was Agriculture Commissioner from 2004-2012, has been accused of abusing his office for personal gain. Following Farmer’s departure, incoming Agriculture Commissioner James Coomer began an audit of Farmer’s tenure. This audit found serious impropriety in the department. For example, Farmer was accused of wasteful spending during an interstate conference of agriculture commissioners and secretaries, with significant amounts of state funds spent on lavish gifts and accommodations. Farmer was also accused of hiring his friends and his girlfriend to state jobs in his department.

The findings of that audit were forwarded to the Personnel Board, which is charged with investigating misconduct on the part of state merit and non-political employees. While the board would not have the power to punish Farmer personally, it’s investigation will address accusations of improper hiring that have been swirling in the Agriculture Department for months.

According to the director of the Personnel Board, their findings will be presented in a single report. Criminal activity uncovered in the investigation will be forwarded to state prosecutors.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer