Ky. Ethics Commission to state workers: "Nuremberg defense doesn't work"

03/18/2013 05:08 PM

In addition to leveling 42 charges against former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission on Monday also issued an advisory opinion to all government employees reinforcing that they are responsible for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing.

The excuse from state workers that staff of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission heard most during their investigation of Farmer is that employees were “just following orders.”

“The so-called Nuremberg defense doesn’t work. You can’t just say I’m following orders,” W. David Denton, the chair of the commission said Monday.

The commission reminded state employees that their code of ethics obligates public servants to refuse to comply with orders that are contrary to the code of ethics.

The opinion reads in part:

  • Such behavior, even under orders, undermines the public confidence in the integrity of governments and public servants. When faced with such a situation, or when compelled to comply with an order that the public servant knows to be unethical or that will result in an outcome that is contrary to the provisions of the Code of Ethics, the Commission encourages the public servant to promptly and accurately report such conduct to the Commission.

Current Agriculture Commissioner James Comer worked with Auditor Adam Edelen, who flagged many of the egregious examples of misuse of state resources and personnel in an audit of Farmer’s administration last year . On Monday, Comer praised the ethics commission in a press release and said the department is trying to move forward.

“This department has invited a level of scrutiny never before seen in state government,” Comer said in a statement. “We have become a model of transparency and accountability. Imagine what we might learn if every agency in state government was placed under the same magnifying glass.”


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