Richie Farmer was a Bluegrass darling, a homestate boy who stuck through the tough times of Kentucky Wildcats basketball probation in the late 1980s and achieved revered status among the rabid fanbase.
He’s now being whistled for flagrant fouls while serving as commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, including allegations of using state money and personnel for hunting trips and purchases of rifles.
The Kentucky State Auditor, Adam Edelen, announced the release of his department’s investigation into Farmer’s tenure with the Agriculture department. The report was highly critical, specific and leveled allegations of misuse of money and personnel, entitlement and abuse of taxpayer trust.
Among them are that Farmer used personnel to drive him around to hunting trips, shot a deer from his state vehicle and instructed an employee to take care of it, and purchased rifles at a discount to distribute as gifts during a regional conference but over-purchased and some rifles are unaccounted for. He also is charged with failing to report, during his 8-year tenure, any gifts worth more than $200 to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.
Edelen will refer the report to the Kentucky Attorney General, Executive Branch Ethics Commission, IRS, Kentucky Department of Revenue, Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Personnel Board.
“The law makes no distinction between icons and the rest of us, and neither do I,” Edelen said. “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 chauffeur 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.”
Farmer did not respond to requests to speak with audit investigators, but his attorney said Monday the allegations are politically motivated. Farmer is a Republican. Edelen, the auditor, is a Democrat.
“In a lot of ways I think we’re going to find that the audit itself is a very political and self-serving audit,” Guthrie True of Frankfort, Ky., told the Louisville Courier-Journal in this report.
Edelen returned a call from Deer & Deer Hunting to clarify on the issue of the USFWS. He said that related specifically to ginseng and alleged misuse of USFWS grant money for ginseng, and not the allegation about killing the deer from a vehicle.
Edelen said he’s a hunter and sportsman, though, and was disappointed about the Farmer’s alleged killing of a doe from a state-issued vehicle.
“That’s the only one I know of from a statewide elected official,” he said. “You cannot be in the vehicle (to hunt). That’s not sporting … that’s why it’s called hunting.”
Stay tuned. We’ll be on lookout for updates to this story.