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.”

Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics available exclusively on Spectrum News. Pure Politics is the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like his coverage of the backlog of DNA rape kits waiting to be tested in Kentucky. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Pure Politics airs weeknight at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Nick on Twitter @NStorm_Politics. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or


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