Comer says federal indictments are sad day for Richie Farmer

04/22/2013 10:16 AM

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said the federal indictment Monday of his predecessor Richie Farmer was unfortunate for Farmer but will not distract from the current efforts of the agency.

A federal grand jury indicted Farmer on charges related to misusing government funds and property worth $450,000 during his tenure as agriculture commissioner, which lasted from January 2004 through 2011.

Farmer already faces 42 ethics charges levied last month by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

“It’s a sad day for Farmer family and the important thing I want everyone to know is we are focused in the department of agriculture on doing what we are supposed to do, we are out committed to agriculture, we are working to create job…so it’s not going to be a distraction,” Comer said at an economic development announcement in Southern Jefferson county Monday.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Kentucky said a federal grand jury indicted Farmer on Friday on four charges of misappropriating funds and property of the Agriculture Department, according to a news release .

From the U.S. Attorney’s office:

One example of Farmer’s alleged misuse of funds occurred in 2008, at the Southern Association of State Departments of Agricultural Conference held in Kentucky. The indictment alleges Farmer bought a surplus of gifts for participants and conference workers, such as rifles, watches, case knives, and personalized cigar boxes, and then kept the excess gifts for his personal use.

The indictment also alleges that Farmer misused his position to secure jobs for his friends. According to the indictment, Farmer directed the KDA to create several paid “Special Assistant” positions. He hired friends for these positions, and he ensured that they operated with little oversight and performed minimal official work. Some of these “Special Assistants” received state government salaries in exchange for performing home improvement projects and other personal services for Farmer.

Additionally, on multiple occasions, Farmer allegedly bought hotel rooms at the Kentucky State Fair for extended family using KDA’s money.

Another count in the indictment alleges that Farmer solicited and accepted property from an eastern Kentucky motor vehicle dealership, intending to be influenced in the decision in which he attempted to award KDA grant money to the dealership.

The indictments were first reported by WKYT in Lexington.

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