Audit finds multiple examples of wrongdoing by Richie Farmer

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Having employees install a basketball court at his house, paying people for work there was no evidence was ever completed, using state money to put his family up in hotels. Those are just some of the allegations against former Kentucky Department of Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer that came out in a state audit Monday.

They're calling it a new day, a new start at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture after the auditor released a 150 page report Monday. While they see it as an opportunity to start over, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions for former commissioner Richie Farmer.

What should have been new computers for employees, ended up missing from the Department of Agriculture office all together. State Auditor Adam Edelen says the man who was supposed to be leading the office took them. Of the three they were able to get back, they say they have no way of knowing what work was being done with them. "The hard drives were wiped in a way that would be beyond the capability to a lay person," explains Edelen.

Edelen says they are just one example of the many ways former Commissioner Richie Farmer was taking advantage of his role and the taxpayer dollars. "The former Commissioner had state employees on state time take him hunting and shopping, build a basketball court in his backyard, mow his lawn and even chauffeur his dog."

Current Commission Jamie Comer says he ordered the internal audit when his new staff started coming forward with concerns about their old boss. It looks at everything from hiring practices to the money spent starting back in January 2004 when Farmer took office. Edelen says they are only now uncovering the claims because people finally felt safe to speak up.

"This was a climate where staff was directed not to use email. There was a calculated effort to run the office for the benefit of the former Commissioner and folks who got in the way tended to be punished," says Edelen.

Farmer did not participate. His attorney says the reason for the audit is a political one for Edelen and Comer. He says Farmer hasn't don't anything wrong and to the claims that Farmer made his employees uncomfortable. "I do know there were some folks interviewed who have been over there for a long who were intricate folks in the decision process," says Farmer's attorney Guthrie True.

The audit claims some of those employees include friends, even his girlfriend, who were not only not qualified to be in their positions, but never completed tasks they were assigned, but still got paid.

The auditor has passed the report along to several agencies for possible legal action including the Attorney General, the Ethics Commission and the IRS. Farmer's attorney says if the Ethics Commission has any questions, they would be happy to clarify.

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