Democrats call for ethics investigation into government spending by Richie Farmer

09/06/2011 10:10 AM

The Kentucky Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission on Tuesday asking the agency to investigate spending by Republican Agriculture Commissioner and candidate for lieutenant governor Richie Farmer.

Farmer is running on a gubernatorial slate with Republican Senate President David Williams this fall and has been a constant target for Democrats who have seized on stories about Farmer’s purchases and expenses as ag commissioner.

In a news release Tuesday, the Kentucky Democratic Party announced it had filed the complaint to the ethics commission, as well as letters to Democratic officials Attorney General Jack Conway and Auditor Crit Luallen, asking for them to investigate the spending.

Specifically, the Democrats referenced news accounts of money Farmer approved for hotel stays in Louisville during the Kentucky State Fair and in Lexington for the Kentucky high school basketball tournaments, as well as the purchase of new vehicles and two mini-fridges.

“Richie Farmer clearly sees the taxpayer dollars that fund the Department of Agriculture as his own personal slush fund – used to buy cars, Caribbean trips, hotel suites, candy, and now, appliances for his own home,” Kentucky Democratic Party chairman Dan Logsdon said. “Commissioner Farmer and his rampant abuse of taxpayer dollars for his personal benefit must be stopped.”

Farmer’s spokesman Bill Clary wasn’t immediately available for comment on the ethics filing.

Farmer and Clary have repeatedly denied that the spending are wastes of taxpayer money. In the case of hotel stays for the Boys Sweet 16 basketball tournament, Farmer has defended the hotel expense because the agency sponsors the event. In an interview with Pure Politics, Farmer defended the stays during the State Fair because many Department of Agriculture employees are working the fair in Louisville during the week.

Most recently, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that a refrigerator, purchased by the state for Farmer’s use, is now missing.

The complaint comes while Farmer’s office is being investigated by the Personnel Board for alleged burrowing of two political appointees into merit jobs. Those employees have since returned to political appointee status, but their hiring is still being investigated.

An appeals process for another alleged burrowing in Farmer’s office is currently in an open appeal process before the Personnel Board.

-Reporting by Kenny Colston


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